Artificial neural network modelling of a large-scale wastewater treatment plant operation
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- Güçlü, D. & Dursun, Ş. Bioprocess Biosyst Eng (2010) 33: 1051. doi:10.1007/s00449-010-0430-x
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Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs), a method of artificial intelligence method, provide effective predictive models for complex processes. Three independent ANN models trained with back-propagation algorithm were developed to predict effluent chemical oxygen demand (COD), suspended solids (SS) and aeration tank mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) concentrations of the Ankara central wastewater treatment plant. The appropriate architecture of ANN models was determined through several steps of training and testing of the models. ANN models yielded satisfactory predictions. Results of the root mean square error, mean absolute error and mean absolute percentage error were 3.23, 2.41 mg/L and 5.03% for COD; 1.59, 1.21 mg/L and 17.10% for SS; 52.51, 44.91 mg/L and 3.77% for MLSS, respectively, indicating that the developed model could be efficiently used. The results overall also confirm that ANN modelling approach may have a great implementation potential for simulation, precise performance prediction and process control of wastewater treatment plants.
KeywordsActivated sludge processModellingArtificial neural networkWastewater treatment plant
Increasingly stringent effluent standards require effective wastewater treatment to meet stringent effluent limitations before discharging into receiving waters. Wastewater treatment has inherently complex and dynamic characteristics. There is a strongly nonlinear relationship between the important process variables. Therefore, operational difficulties in wastewater treatment plants are often encountered. Modelling the treatment process dynamics is providing proper operation and control of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). The International Association on Water Pollution Research and Control (IAWPRC) task group developed a mathematical model of the activated sludge process, Activated Sludge Model No. 1 (ASM1), considered as ‘‘state-of-the-art’’ model for carbonaceous substrate removal, nitrification, and denitrification processes . On the other hand, these models still have some weaknesses, which make the model calibration and its practical application complicated. These weaknesses include: (1) an entirely satisfactory description of the cause–effect relationships within activated sludge processes, (2) a large number of kinetic and stoichiometric parameters many of which are difficult to determine and (3) a large number of parameters needed to respecify their values for different conditions of these processes [2–5].
Alternatively, artificial neural network modelling approaches have received considerable attention in modelling waste water treatment processes, in recent years. Advantageously, a neural network model has distinctive ability of learning non-linear functional relationships. They do not require any prior structural knowledge of the relationships that exist between important variables and processes to be modelled . In recent years, much research was done in wastewater treatment based on ANNs. These researches have been mainly focused on estimation of wastewater process parameters , simulation of wastewater treatment performance [8–10], monitoring , controlling , classification, [4, 12] and software sensor design . In the literature to date, a limited number of applications have been made to aerobic large scale wastewater treatment plants using ANN model for modelling of a plant operation .
The purpose of the present study was to develop the dynamic model that successfully simulates effluent COD, SS and aeration tank MLSS concentrations and monitor the large-scale wastewater treatment plant performance. For this reason, three independent ANN models were applied to the Ankara Central Wastewater Treatment Plant. Differing from the studies in the literature, in this study ANN model was used in dynamic modelling for predicting effluent COD, SS and aeration tank MLSS in a large scale WWTP. The prediction performances of the models under dynamical circumstances have been evaluated and compared using statistical parameters.
Materials and methods
The statistical values of measured wastewater parameters during the campaign period 
Influent flow rate (m3/day)*
Influent COD concentration (mg/L)
Influent SS concentration (mg/L)
Influent COD loading (kg/day)
Influent TKN concentration (mg/L)
RAS flow rate (m3/day)*
WAS flow rate (m3/day)*
DO concentration in aeration tank (mg/L)
Effluent COD concentration (mg/L)
Effluent SS concentration (mg/L)
The MLP artificial neural network
Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are biologically inspired intelligent techniques. ANNs are generally made up of a number of simple and highly interconnected neurons organized into layers. ANNs have many structures and architectures [17, 18]. Multilayered perceptron artificial neural networks (MLP-ANNs) are the simplest and therefore most commonly used neural network architectures . The back-propagation with momentum (BPM) learning algorithm  is used in this study because it is the most commonly adopted MLP-ANN training algorithm. MLP-ANN structure consists of one input layer, one intermediate or hidden layer and one output layer. Each layer can have a number of neurons, which are connected linearly by weights to the neurons in the neighbouring layers.
Training and testing
Evaluation of model performance
Results and discussion
ANN model performance statistics calculated over the whole of training and testing data
Comparable observations were similarly made by Pai et al.  compared different types of model by which the effluent from an industrial park WWTP was predicted using ANN model. They found that the MAPEs lay between 4.49–7.24% and 4.20–14.36 for COD and SS, respectively. In another study, Pai et al.  employed ANN to predict COD and SS in the effluent from sequence batch reactors for a hospital wastewater treatment plant (HWWTP). They found the prediction accuracy as 48.22 and 19.81% for COD and SS. Other studies applying ANN modelling method to a full-scale wastewater treatment plant estimated correlation coefficient (R-square) values ranging from 0.63 to 0.81 for BOD, and from 0.45 to 0.65 for SS in plant effluent . In the study proposed by Gontarski et al. , ANN was used to predict the effluent total organic carbon (TOC) from an IWWTP. Since TOC was the single output layer variable, high fitness was achieved. In this study, the minimum RMSEs, MAEs and MAPEs of 3.23, 2.41 mg/L and 5.03% for COD 1.59, 1.21 mg/L and 17.10% for SS, 52.51, 44.91 mg/L and 3.77% for MLSS could be achieved, respectively. The highest r results of 0.85, 0.68 and 0.88 for COD, SS and MLSS were determined based on testing data set. Although it is beyond the scope of this study, the results of ANN model were compared with the ones of Güclü et al. . It was observed that the ANN alone performs a bit worse than ASM1 ANN hybrid model for COD on the same data set.
The error values of COD model were smaller than those of SS and MLSS models. The maximum r values of 0.85, 0.68 and 0.88 for COD, SS, and MLSS could be achieved using ANN. The minimum MAPE values for COD, SS, and MLSS were 5.03, 17.10, and 3.77%, respectively. The minimum RMSEs of 3.23, 1.59, and 52.5100, and the minimum MAEs of 2.41, 1.21, and 44.91 for COD, SS, and MLSS could also be achieved.
By considering the high level of complexity in biological processes, the broadness of the data range and the computed other error values, it is seen that it provides successful results in prediction of target output parameters. The ANN-based models were found to be a viable alternative for more precise performance prediction and monitoring of treatment process dynamics.
There is a great deal of potential using it as a general modelling tool, especially suitable for a variety other treatment process systems which are difficult to solve with conventional activated sludge modelling techniques.
Models with more data using on-line process variables should be investigated. This would have resulted in an improved prediction capability and increased applicability of the model in prediction, monitoring and in advanced control of the wastewater treatment systems.
This paper has been derived from a part of PhD thesis of Dünyamin Güçlü. Authors would like to thank Ankara Water and Sewerage Administration (ASKI) General Directorate (Turkey) for their help during the experimental study and in providing WWTP process data. This study was supported by the Selcuk University Research Fund (BAP) with Project No: 2005-101018.