Aquatic environment

Enhancing sewage sludge dewaterability by bioleaching approach with comparison to other physical and chemical conditioning methods

Fenwu Liu , Jun Zhou , Dianzhan Wang , Lixiang Zhou


Received October 06, 2011,Revised December 23, 2011, Accepted , Available online August 02, 2012

Volume 24,2012,Pages 1403-1410

The sewage sludge conditioning process is critical to improve the sludge dewaterability prior to mechanical dewatering. Traditionally, sludge is conditioned by physical or chemical approaches, mostly with the addition of inorganic or organic chemicals. Here we report that bioleaching, an efficient and economical microbial method for the removal of sludge-borne heavy metals, also plays a significant role in enhancing sludge dewaterability. The effects of bioleaching and physical or chemical approaches on sludge dewaterability were compared. The conditioning result of bioleaching by Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans and Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans on sludge dewatering was investigated and compared with the effects of hydrothermal (121℃ for 2 hr), microwave (1050 W for 50 sec), ultrasonic (250 W for 2 min), and chemical conditioning (24% ferric chloride and 68% calcium oxide; dry basis). The results show that the specific resistance to filtration (SRF) or capillary suction time (CST) of sludge is decreased by 93.1% or 74.1%, respectively, after fresh sludge is conditioned by bioleaching, which is similar to chemical conditioning treatment with ferric chloride and calcium oxide but much more effective than other conditioning approaches including hydrothermal, microwave, and ultrasonic conditioning. Furthermore, after sludge dewatering, bioleached sludge filtrate contains the lowest concentrations of chroma (18 times), COD (542 mg/L), total N (TN, 300 mg/L), NH4+-N (208 mg/L), and total P (TP, 2 mg/L) while the hydrothermal process resulted in the highest concentration of chroma (660 times), COD (18,155 mg/L), TN (472 mg/L), NH4+-N (381 mg/L), and TP (191 mg/L) among these selected conditioning methods. Moreover, unlike chemical conditioning, sludge bioleaching does not result in a significant reduction of organic matter, TN, and TP in the resulting dewatered sludge cake. Therefore, considering sludge dewaterability and the chemical properties of sludge filtrate and resulting dewatered sludge cakes, bioleaching has potential as an approach for improving sludge dewaterability and reducing the cost of subsequent reutilization or disposal of dewatered sludge.

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