This paper describes the demonstrative scale application of a membrane biological reactor (MBR) for low loaded domestic wastewater with low attitude to biological treatment (carbon/nitrogen ∼ 5). The biological process was managed by the automatically controlled alternate cycles allowing for re-use purposes with a remarkable reduction of the operational costs. The global process evaluation revealed the system capability of obtaining high nitrogen removal (effective nitrogen removal of 69%) thanks to its high flexibility related to the hourly loading fluctuation. Moreover, high removal of heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) was obtained due to the perfect retention capability of the membranes. In-depth studies were conducted to determine the process behaviour for activated sludge over aeration and with addition of exogenous carbon. Limitation of sludge over aeration and energy savings were observed with a gradient air supplying method. The addition of exogenous carbon (acetic acid up to carbon/nitrogen ∼ 9) led to complete nitrogen removal (Ed = 96%) and permitted biological phosphorus uptake. In conclusion, it was been found that the coupled process alternated cycles-MBR had the capacity to remove COD, BOD, N, P and suspended solids, as well as heavy metals and organic micropollutants, resulting in high quality effluent suitable for re-use purposes.

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