In this investigation, the robustness and stability of UASB reactors was evaluated on the basis of four indicators: (i) COD removal efficiency; (ii) effluent variability; (iii) pH stability; and (iv) recovery time. The experiments were carried out using six pilot-scale UASB reactors fed with domestic sewage and operated under different operational conditions. After establishment of a “steady-state”, organic and hydraulic shock loads (six times the loading rate during six hours) were imposed. The results show that the UASB reactors are robust systems with regards to COD removal efficiency and pH stability when exposed to shock loads. However, this reactor cannot attenuate the imposed fluctuation in the influent COD. A secondary treatment unit is needed to retain the expelled sludge occurring as a result of a hydraulic shock load, or prior to the shock, a sufficient amount of sludge needs to be discharged from the reactor.

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