The purpose of this study was to evaluate the influence of partial ozonation of return activated sludge on settling properties and dewaterability of sludge. Sequencing batch reactors with two sets of aerobic and alternating anoxic/aerobic conditions were used. In each set, one reactor served as a control and the other was subject to the ozone treatment (doses in the range of 0.016–0.080 mg O3/mg TSS of initial excess sludge). The level of total suspended solids (TSS) in each reactor was controlled at 1,800 mg/l. To evaluate settleability and dewaterability, settling kinetic studies, sludge volume index (SVI) and capillary suction time test (CST) were used. For extraction and quantifying sludge biopolymers, thermal-ethanolic extraction was employed. The ratio of bound-to-total extracellular polymer substances (EPS) was higher for the strictly aerobic reactor than for the alternating anoxic/aerobic one, indicating the stronger structure of the aerobic flocs. After ozone treatment, the fraction of bound EPS was released and solubilized, increasing soluble EPS. Increased apparent food-to-microorganism (F/M) ratio favoured production of EPS in ozonated reactors, enhancing flocculation, which had potential to improve settling. Dewaterability, measured by CST test, was better in alternating anoxic/aerobic reactors than in aerobic ones, indicating that incorporation of an anoxic zone for biological nutrient removal leads to improvement in sludge dewatering. The negative impact of ozonation on dewaterability was minimal in terms of the long-term operation.

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