This article evaluates and compares the actual behavior of 166 full-scale anaerobic and aerobic wastewater treatment plants in operation in Brazil, providing information on the performance of the processes in terms of the quality of the generated effluent and the removal efficiency achieved. The observed results of effluent concentrations and removal efficiencies of the constituents BOD, COD, TSS (total suspended solids), TN (total nitrogen), TP (total phosphorus) and FC (faecal or thermotolerant coliforms) have been compared with the typical expected performance reported in the literature. The treatment technologies selected for study were: (a) predominantly anaerobic: (i) septic tank + anaerobic filter (ST + AF), (ii) UASB reactor without post-treatment (UASB) and (iii) UASB reactor followed by several post-treatment processes (UASB + POST); (b) predominantly aerobic: (iv) facultative pond (FP), (v) anaerobic pond followed by facultative pond (AP + FP) and (vi) activated sludge (AS). The results, confirmed by statistical tests, showed that, in general, the best performance was achieved by AS, but closely followed by UASB reactor, when operating with any kind of post-treatment. The effluent quality of the anaerobic processes ST + AF and UASB reactor without post-treatment was very similar to the one presented by facultative pond, a simpler aerobic process, regarding organic matter.

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