Thermophilic anaerobic treatment of food industry wastewaters was studied using a 0.65 m3 upflow anaerobic sludge bed (UASB) reactor. The reactor was operated at 55°C and placed on the premises of a factory manufacturing deep-frozen goods from vegetables. The hot (>80-90°C) and concentrated (COD 14-79 g/l) wastewater streams, deriving from steam peeling and blanching of carrot and potato were used.
The UASB reactor was inoculated with a small amount of granular sludge from a full-scale mesophilic UASB reactor. Prior to inoculation, the inoculum was acclimated to 55°C for 2 days. The reactor was fed with a mixture of wastewaters diluted to the desired COD. The reactor was started with loading rates of about 1.2 kgCOD/m3d. After the initial acidification of the process, apparently due to insufficient buffer capacity, the COD removal started to improve and reached 60% within 35 days of inoculation. At the end of the 70 days run, more than 80% COD removal was achieved with loading rates of about 4 kgCOD/m3d. The pilot-study run was limited due to the end of the seasonal production in the target factory.
The results of the pilot study together with the results from the intensive laboratory studies suggest the feasibility of thermophilic anaerobic treatment for the studied wastewaters.