This study analyzes the effect of inoculating membrane bioreactor (MBR) sludge in a parallel-operated overloaded conventional activated sludge (CAS) system. Modelling studies that showed the beneficial effect of this inoculation were confirmed though full scale tests. Total nitrogen (TN) removal in the CAS increased and higher nitrate formation rates were achieved. During MBR sludge inoculation, the TN removal in the CAS was proven to be dependent on MBR sludge loading. Special attention was given to the effect of inoculation on sludge quality. The MBR flocs, grown without selection pressure, were clearly distinct from the more compact flocs in the CAS system and also contained more filamentous bacteria. After inoculation the MBR flocs did not evolve into good-settling compact flocs, resulting in a decreasing sludge quality. During high flow conditions the effluent CAS contained more suspended solids. Sludge volume index, however, did not increase. Laboratory tests were held to determine the threshold volume of MBR sludge to be seeded into the CAS reactor. Above 16–30%, supernatant turbidity and scum formation increased markedly.

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