This paper analyses factors associated with bulking in 195 small scale wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Estonia. Operational data from each plant were collected and analysed statistically. The key factors associated with bulking were infiltration into sewage pipes, the type and purpose of process reactor, operational practices and influent characteristics. Both anaerobic fraction and volumetric fraction of the anaerobic reactor compared to the aerobic reactor resulted in a positive correlation with sludge volume index (SVI) <150 ml/g values. Good operation and maintenance practice as well as an operator's competence play a crucial role in bulking prevention. Using the 30 minute settling test (V30) as the single process control parameter can mislead an operator's judgement in process control strategies and cause effluent violations. Misjudgements in process control decisions can lead to unwanted conditions in small WWTPs (e.g. excessive chemical addition favoured bulking). Use of instrumentation, control and automation helped to keep the process conditions more stable and reduce the probability of bulking. Analyses of variance showed that the factors associated with Microthrix parvicella growth were long solids retention time (SRT), low food-to-microorganism ratio (F/M) and lack of carbon content compared against nitrogen and phosphorus contents.

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