Since the mid-nineties membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology has been introduced to municipal wastewater treatment in Europe. The first MBR plants went into operation performing a conventional mechanical pre-treatment (MPT) without any advanced treatment units. After a short operation period, clogging caused by fibrous substances and hence module sludging was observed. Thus, MPT was upgraded introducing sieves. Several investigations had been carried out to determine the removal efficiency of different sieve units and entire MPT systems. Meanwhile experiences from long-term operation at different MBR sites indicate dependencies between different MPT units, especially between the aerated grit chamber/grease trap and the subsequent sieve unit. Usually the sieve is the final MPT unit and its performance depends on the performance of the upstream MPT units. This report describes and discusses results from a research project at MBR Kaarst–Nordkanal in Germany conducted in 2008 to 2010 by the Water Board of River Erft and the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering. Main focus is addressed for the parameters SS (settable solids) and grease. One major experience is the confirmation of relevant interactions between the grit chamber and the downstream sieve unit. Stable operation of the grit chamber and grease trap is essential to achieve a constantly high removal performance of the sieve unit and therefore the entire MPT stage. In turn, negative impacts on the grit chamber performance from the return flow concept have to be avoided. Finally, it is shown that the appropriate two-dimensional sieve gap size should not go beyond 1 mm when operating hollow fibre membranes.

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