The potential of enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) in biological nutrient removal (BNR) systems critically depends on the availability and types of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) in sewage. Although the characteristics of VFAs in sewage are strongly related with the biochemical transformations in the sewer system, they have not been studied thoroughly in terms of BNR process design. We have investigated the characteristics of VFAs in influent of nine sewage treatment plants which represent typical small to very large sewer systems in Korea. We found that influent total VFACOD (VFA as chemical oxygen demand) concentrations ranged from 20.4 to 65.2 mg/L. Acetic acid was a predominant VFA in sewage, and the propionic acid (HPr) portion averaged 38.7% of total VFACOD. However the sewage from longer sewer systems showed more HPr content, indicating that type of VFA varied with the total sewer length. The finding is a particularly important consideration for BNR process design since availability of HPr positively behaved to suppress the unfavorable growth of glycogen-accumulating organisms. The implication of these findings for BNR process design is discussed in this paper.

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