A 4 L submerged tubular ceramic membrane bioreactor (MBR) was applied in laboratory scale to treat 2,400 mg-COD/L high strength wastewater. A prolonged sludge retention time (SRT) of 200 day, in contrast to the conventional SRT of 5 to 15 days, was explored in this study, aiming to reduce substantially the amount of disposed sludge. The MBR system was operated for a period of 142 days in four runs, differentiated by specific oxygen utilization rate (SOUR) and hydraulic retention time (HRT). It was found that the MBR system produced more than 99% of suspended solid reduction. Mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) was found to be adversely proportional to HRT, and in general higher than the value from a conventional wastewater treatment plant. A chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal efficiency was achieved as high as 98% in Run 1, when SOUR was in the range of 100-200 mg-O/g-MLVSS/hr. Unexpectedly, the COD removal efficiency in Run 2 to 4 was higher than 92%, on average, where higher HRT and abnormally low SOUR of 20-30 mg-O/g-MLVSS/hr prevailed. It was noted that the ceramic membrane presented a significant soluble nutrient rejection when the microbial metabolism of biological treatment broke down.

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