Wastewater, EBPR, Phosphorus Removal, pH, VFA


pH control is a tool to improve some aspects of Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal (EBPR) process. Filipe et al (2001a, 2001b, and 2001c) found strong evidence that the stability of EBPR systems can be improved by increasing the pH of the anaerobic zone, thereby creating conditions where phosphorus-accumulating organisms (PAOs) are able to take up acetate faster than glycogen-accumulating organisms (GAOs). They explained this observation by comparing the growth rate of phosphorus-accumulating organisms (PAOs) and glycogen-accumulating organisms (GAOs) and found that pH has little effect on PAOs growth rate but adversely affects GAOs growth rate when it increases (at pH values greater than 7.25, PAOs would take acetate faster than GAOs would). They used synthetic wastewater rich in acetic acid. In this study, we used real wastewater and the dominant volatile fatty acid available to microorganisms was propionic acid in continuous EBPR system. It was found that lower anaerobic zone pH (6.5 vs. 7.2) reduced the anaerobic P release both on an MLVSS specific basis and also on a non-specific (absolute value for the process) basis. In addition, the observed yield was significantly decreased. Aerobic P uptake was lower in the low-pH system (on a non-specific basis) due to the lower observed yield, and thus lower MLVSS concentration. Net P uptake was hard to interpret because of the effect of P release in the secondary clarifier of Train 2 (high pH). However, on a specific basis it was clear that net P uptake was either equal or better in the low-pH system regardless of how the secondary clarifier data was interpreted. Carbon transformations were not impacted in as consistent a fashion as anaerobic P release was. On a specific basis, PHA content remained unchanged although the PHV/PHB ratio was impacted with much lower PHV content in the low-pH system. Glycogen content and the amount of labile glycogen (delta glycogen) were higher in the low-pH system, in spite of the fact that MLVSS P content did not decrease. However, due to the impact of the low observed yield at low pH, absolute values resulted in higher PHA content for the process reactors as a whole, higher glycogen content, and unchanged labile glycogen. Low pH resulted in increased biomass P content, however the lower observed yield offset this on a process basis so that effluent P levels were nearly equal. So low pH improved P removal on a specific basis, but not on a process basis. Since it is unknown if the low observed yield is repeatable, and due to the impact of the secondary clarifier in the high pH system, it cannot be concluded that the effect of low pH on net P removal would be similar in other EBPR systems.


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Graduation Date





Randall, Andrew


Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (M.S.Env.E.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Degree Program

Environmental Engineering








Length of Campus-only Access


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Masters Thesis (Open Access)