Wastewater from a formaldehyde-urea adhesives factory is characterised by a high organic matter content (COD between 460 and 3900 mg/L mostly due to formaldehyde 220–4000 mg/L) and organic nitrogen (TKN 110–805 mg/L). Besides, a fraction of COD is given by a formaldehyde-urea polymer with a relatively high molecular weight. In a lab-scale (2 L) activated sludge unit, a high formaldehyde removal (higher than 99%) was obtained while the total COD and TKN removal ranged between 70–85 % and 30–50%, respectively. Formaldehyde was used by microorganisms as carbon source and also for the conversion of nitrate to nitrogen gas. The Organic Loading Rate (OLR) was between 0.2 and 1.2 kg–COD/m3·d and the Hydraulic Retention Time (HRT) between 0.5 and 1.4 d. The non degraded TKN and COD, mostly corresponding to the polymeric fraction, was further treated in an ozonation unit, which increased very efficiently the bioavailability of TKN towards nitrification and allowed an additional COD removal. Results from lab-scale reactors were used for designing and operating an industrial scale activated sludge unit, being the efficiency attained at full-scale similar to the laboratory unit.

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