Conventional membrane bioreactor (MBR) systems have increasingly been studied in recent decades. However, their applications have been limited due to their drawbacks such as low flux, membrane fouling, and high operating cost. In this study, a compact macro-filtration MBR (MfMBR) process was developed by using a large pore size membrane to mitigate the membrane fouling problem. A pilot trial of MfMBR process was set up and operated to treat 10 m3/day of saline wastewater within 4 h. The system was operated under an average permeate flux of 13.1 m3/(m2·day) for 74 days. The average total suspended solids, total chemical oxygen demand, biological oxygen demand, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, and total nitrogen removal efficiencies achieved were 94.3, 83.1, 98.0, 93.1, and 63.3%, respectively, during steady-state operation. The confocal laser scanning microscopy image indicated that the backwash could effectively remove the bio-cake and dead bacteria. Thus, the results showed that the MfMBR process, which is essentially a primary wastewater treatment process, had the potential to yield the same high quality effluent standards as the secondary treatment process; thereby suggesting that it could be used as an option when the economic budget and/or land space is limited.

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