The potential for integrated fixed film activated sludge (IFAS) processes to achieve enhanced transformation of pharmaceuticals relative to conventional activated sludge (CAS) processes was assessed. Previous studies have focused on direct comparisons of parallel reactors with and without fixed film carriers and little information is available on the impacts of how varying operating parameters impact the differences in observed pharmaceutical compound (PC) transformation capabilities between CAS reactors and those equipped with both an activated sludge (AS) and fixed film carriers. The testing was carried out using bench scale sequencing batch reactors fed with authentic municipal wastewater and operated at selected combinations of temperature and solids residence time (SRT). PC transformation efficiencies were assessed in a 22 factorial design that employed the IFAS and CAS processes, operated in parallel under identical process conditions. Nitrification rate testing that was conducted to obtain insight into the biomass activity demonstrated that IFAS consistently had improved nitrification kinetics despite lower mixed liquor volatiles suspended solids levels thereby demonstrating the contribution of the biofilm to nitrification. Increased transformation of atenolol (ATEN; ranging from 10–60%) and trimethoprim (TRIM; ranging from 30–50%) in the IFAS equipped reactors relative to their respective activated sludge (AS) controls was observed under all experimental conditions. Negligible transformation of carbamazepine was observed in both reactors under all conditions investigated. More than 99% of acetaminophen was transformed in both configurations under all conditions. There was no correspondence between nitrification activity and TRIM removal in the control AS while conditions that stimulated nitrification in the control AS also resulted in enhanced removal of ATEN. The results of this study indicate that the integration of biofilms in AS processes enhances transformation of some PCs.
- fixed films
- integrated fixed film activated sludge
- First received 30 September 2016.
- Accepted in revised form 7 February 2017.
- © IWA Publishing 2017