In many regions dairy farms and milk processing industries discharge large quantities of their wastes to the surroundings posing serious environmental risks. This problem is mostly faced in small dairy farms and isolated communities lacking both central collection and conventional wastewater treatment systems. Dairy wastewater is characterized by high concentrations of organic matter, solids, nutrients, as well as fractions of dissolved inorganic pollutants, exceeding those levels considered typical for high strength domestic wastewaters. With the purpose of treating the combined dairy and domestic wastewater from a small dairy farm in the Negev Desert of Israel, the use of a recent emerging technology of Immersed Membrane BioReactor (IMBR) was evaluated over the course of 500 test hours, under a variety of wastewater feed quality conditions (during the test periods, the feed BOD5 ranged from 315 ppm up to 4,170 ppm).

The overall performance of a pilot-scale Ultrafiltration (UF) IMBR process for a combined domestic and dairy wastewater was analyzed based on the Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) method. The IMBR performance in terms of membrane performance (permeate flux, transmembrane pressure, and organic removal) and DEA model (Technical Efficiency) was acceptable. DEA is an empirically based methodology and the research approach has been found to be effective in the depiction and analysis for complex systems, where a large number of mutual interacting variables are involved.

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