This paper forms part of series of biological treatment colour behaviour studies. Surveys across a range of mills have observed colour increases in aerated stabilisation basins of 20–45%. Much of the colour formation has been demonstrated to occur in high molecular mass effluent organic constituents (HMM) present in bleach plant effluents. Removing material greater than 3,000 Da essentially eliminated the colour forming ability in both E and D stage wastewaters. We have also shown that pulp and paper sludges contain anaerobic bacteria capable of reducing humic like materials. Colour formation was correlated to the anoxic conditions and the availability of readily biodegradable organic constituents during the wastewater treatment process. Overall, these studies suggest that colour formation in pulp and paper biological treatment systems may be caused by anaerobic bacteria using HMM material from the bleaching effluents as an electron acceptor for growth. This leads to the reduction of the material, which in turn leads to non-reversible internal changes, such as intra-molecular polymerisation or formation of chromophoric functional groups.

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