The paper analyses the capability of 166 full-scale wastewater treatment plants operating in Brazil, in order to achieve different quality targets for wastewater discharge. These targets cover a wide range of possible situations, reflecting usual practices adopted worldwide. Six different treatment processes have been investigated: septic tank + anaerobic filter, facultative pond, anaerobic pond + facultative pond, activated sludge, UASB reactors alone, UASB reactors followed by post-treatment. The parameters investigated were: BOD, COD, suspended solids, total nitrogen, total phosphorus and thermotolerant coliforms. Most technologies showed a poor performance, and some of them were not capable to achieve even relaxed standards. The paper presents elements for setting up discharge standards in developing countries, based either on values that may be achieved by treatment processes commonly applied or on best available technologies.

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