In Japan, membrane bioreactor (MBRs) have been installed in 17 small-scale municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the past 8 years, together with two recently installed MBRs for larger-scale WWTPs. In this study, design and operating data were collected from 17 of them as part of a follow-up survey, and aspects including system design, biological treatment, membrane operation, problems and costs were overviewed. Because most of the MBRs were designed according to standardized guidance, system configuration of the plants was similar; pre-denitrification using the Modified Ludzack-Ettinger (MLE) process with membrane units submerged in aerobic tanks, following a fine screen and flow equalization tank. This led to effluent quality with biochemical oxygen demand and T-N of less than 3.5 and 7.4 mg/L, respectively, for nine plants on an annual average basis. It was a common practice in extremely under-loaded plants to operate the membrane systems intermittently. Frequency of recovery cleaning events was plant-specific, mostly ranging from 1 to 5 times/year. Cost evaluation revealed that specific construction costs for the small-scale MBRs were no more than for oxidation ditch plants. Although specific energy consumption values tended to be high in the under-loaded plants, the demonstration MBR, where several energy reducing measures had been incorporated, attained specific energy consumption of 0.39 kWh/m3 under full-capacity operation.

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