The effects of hydraulic retention time (HRT) and influent COD concentration (CODInf) on Specific Methanogenic Activity (SMA) and the biodegradability of an anaerobic sludge need to be elucidated because of the discordant results available in literature. This information is important for the operation of anaerobic reactors and design of the sludge post-treatment unit. For this study, sludge samples obtained from eight pilot-scale Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) reactors were tested. The reactors were fed with municipal wastewater and operated with different sets of HRT and influent concentrations until the steady state was established. The results show that at a lower HRT, sludge with relatively higher SMA develops. A slight trend of declining SMA at increasing CODInf was found for reactors operated at longer HRTs; however, further experiments are necessary for more definitive conclusions. The sludge from reactors operated at longer HRTs and with lower CODInf resulted in lower biodegradability. Results also showed that it is ineffective to design a UASB reactor with a longer HRT to cope with organic shock loads.

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