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Volatilization and Biodegradation of VOCs in Membrane Bioreactors (MBR)

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Volatilization and biodegradation are major competitive volatile organic compound (VOC) removal mechanisms in biological wastewater treatment process, which depend on compound specific properties and system design/operational parameters. In this study, a mathematical model was used to determine major removal pathways at various organic loading rates (OLR), solids residence time (SRT) and dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations in a biological process for vinyl acetate. Model results showed that biological treatment process should be designed with long SRT, high OLR and low DO concentrations to maximize biodegradation and minimize volatilization of VOCs. Unless a VOC is toxic to microorganisms under the given conditions, low VOC emission rates are an inherent advantage of MBRs, which operate at higher OLR and longer SRT compared to conventional activated sludge process.

A lab scale membrane bioreactor (MBR) was operated at varying OLR to investigate the relative volatilization and biodegradation rates for acetaldehyde, butyraldehyde and vinyl acetate. Synthetic wastewater containing three VOCs was introduced to the MBR. The DO concentration and SRT was maintained at 2.0 mg L− 1 and 100 days, respectively. The overall VOC removal rate was more than 99.7% for three VOCs at all the OLR. For vinyl acetate, the biodegradation rate increased from 93.87 to 99.40% and the volatilization removal rate decreased from 6.09 to 0.59% as OLR was increased from 1.1 to 2.0 kg COD m− 3 d− 1. It was confirmed that a MBR can be a promising solution to reduce VOC emissions from wastewater.

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Correspondence to Sarina J. Ergas.

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Min, K., Ergas, S.J. Volatilization and Biodegradation of VOCs in Membrane Bioreactors (MBR). Water Air Soil Pollut: Focus 6, 83–96 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11267-005-9015-0

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  • biodegradation
  • dissolved oxygen (DO)
  • membrane bioreactor (MBR)
  • organic loading rate (OLR)
  • solids residence time (SRT)
  • volatilization
  • volatile organic compound (VOC)