Revision of the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations in the UK has resulted in the requirement of a final product standard in terms of E coli per gram of dry solids. Conventional mesophilic digestion including 14-day secondary storage should normally provide adequate treatment to meet the Treated Sludge Standard. Any process capable of greater pathogen reduction would ensure more process security and compliance comfort. Such a process would be a welcome alternative to extra secondary storage where an existing works does not have sufficient capacity, particularly if the differences in costs between the options are small.
Enzymic hydrolysis was found to be up to ten-fold more effective in E coli reduction than conventional secondary digestion. A two-stage digestion process based on this technique has been developed by United Utilities and Montgomery Watson Harza (termed the enzymic hydrolyser, patent pending). Studies showed that the mean numbers of E coli were significantly lower in the enzymic hydrolyser systems (P>0.05; t=13.19) compared to conventional digesters. Increased stability was a secondary benefit of the system (foam was eliminated or greatly reduced in the enzymic hydrolyser units). Another benefit of the system for retrofit to existing assets is the decreased tankage volumes required compared to secondary digestion to achieve more than twice the log kill of pathogens.