Although there are few studies about clogging phenomenon in the peer-reviewed literature, it is considered one of the main operational challenges by membrane bioreactor (MBR) practitioners. This study presents data from the performance of a full-scale MBR affected by clogging, and ragging in particular. An evaluation of the efficiencies of different applied cleaning methods revealed the acid recovery cleaning to be more efficient than the basic recovery cleanings, although all maintenance cleanings were largely ineffective in recovering membrane permeability. Only declogging cleaning through the manual removal of the accumulated solids was found to be efficient, indicating that such solids were substantially unremoved by chemical cleaning. Moreover, reclogging following manual cleaning demonstrated a propensity for rapid clogging – within a period of 10 days over which the permeability returned to 68 and 88% of the pre-cleaned state. The analysis of the feedwater indicated suspended textile fibres (>70% cotton) to be present at a concentration of more than 40 mg·L−1, ∼90% being smaller than 1 mm (0.06–0.4 mm). These small lengths of filaments evidently pass through pre-treatment and are retained on the membrane surface, forming ‘rags’ within the membrane module, notwithstanding the routine high quality of sludge reflected in the capillary suction time and filterability measurements. Pre-treatment improvement, manual cleaning and permeate flux reduction are the only options to minimise ragging impact over MBR performance.

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