Although the BNR system design assumes no sludge settling problems in the final settling tank, the fluctuation of daily loading and up to 40% of anaerobiosis in the BNR system would be considerable factors in determining the sludge settleability. The sludge volume index (SVI) is a classical parameter to examine the sludge settleability but it has a limited value to evaluate the overall settling characteristics. The extracellular polymer (ECP) content in sludge has long been considered as an indicator of biological flocculation in activated sludge process, but the skepticism on analytical accuracy limits the usage in settling study. This study focused on evaluating the BNR system performance related to the sludge settling characteristics under the controlled laboratory environment. A 5-stage BNR system (anaerobic-anoxic-3 stage oxic) was operated with the HRTs from 3.9 to 7.6 hours. In order to determine the sludge settling properties, both SVI and ECP content were monitored. The ECP contents in the sludge sample were measured by the slime-washing step followed by high-G centrifugation and sonication. The gel-electrophoresis was used to detect the DNA in the sonicated samples to determine the intracellular polymer contamination. It has been found that the anaerobiosis in the anaerobic and anoxic zone that consisted of 37% of reactor volume could not deteriorate the sludge settling properties even at the HRT of 3.9 hours. The SVI values of sludge taken from the reactor with the HRT of 7.2 hours averaged to less than 50 mL/gr. It was postulated that a fast settling sludge in the BNR system could not always ensure production of clear effluent. The sludge with very low SVI might not achieve a complete biological flocculation potential. In addition, the degree of denitrification in the BNR system could be related to the sludge settleability.

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