Dewatering of sewage sludge is an essential and costly part of the wastewater treatment process. The presence of microbial extracellular polymer (ECP) is important for sludge flocculation, but ECP has also been shown to have a detrimental effect on the dewaterability of certain sludge types. This paper investigates the relationship between sludge dewaterability and the level of ECP present in a range of sludges obtained from 8 full-scale municipal treatment works in the UK. Sludge dewaterability was determined using the capillary suction time (CST) test, and a thermal extraction process followed by solvent precipitation was used for ECP extraction. The results indicate that for each type of sludge examined there appears to be an optimum level of ECP (raw sludge 20 mg ECP/g SS; activated sludge 35 mg ECP/g SS; digested sludge 10 mg ECP/g SS) at which the sludge should exhibit maximum dewaterability. The establishment of a trend between sludge dewaterability and the quantity of ECP present opens up the possibility of manipulating the level of microbial polymer present to aid sludge dewatering, and hence reduce plant operating costs.

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