Biodegradation by microorganisms and mass transfer resistance in the micro-environment of activated sludge floc can cause changes in substrate and dissolved oxygen concentrations within the floc and can contribute to stratification of microbial processes inside the flocs. In this study, an integrated model of the microenvironment of the activated sludge floc was developed for floc from wastewaters from several sources and of varying strengths for dynamic simulation of the combined biological processes of COD and nitrogen removal. The model simulation results and measured profiles show the heterogeneous and gradient-governed microenvironment of activated sludge floc under different substrate and bulk oxygen concentrations. The substrate concentration increase zones inside the floc were present in all activated sludge floc from the Miller Brewing Co. wastewater treatment facility (high pollutant strength), with an oxygen penetration depth of only 0.15 mm into the outer layer. The anoxic and substrate concentration increase zones also dominated in the activated sludge floc from the Mill Creek Plant influent (medium pollutant strength), with the outer layer (0.20 mm) participating in the metabolism of the pollutants. The radius of the substrate concentration increase zone inside the sludge floc decreased with pollutant removal along the length of the tank. When the pollutant concentration in the bulk wastewater was low (Muddy Creek Plant), the substrate concentration increase zone disappeared; the whole floc was aerobic and in a high redox status. Our experiments and model analyses demonstrate that the microorganisms' structure-functions inside activated sludge floc change with the bulk substrate concentration and dissolved oxygen concentration.

This content is only available as a PDF.