Aerobic biological treatment of digested sludge was studied in a continuously operated laboratory set-up. An aerated reactor was filled with thermophilically digested sludge from the Moscow wastewater treatment plant and inoculated with special activated sludge. It was then operated at the chemostat mode at different flow rates. Processes of nitrification and denitrification, as well as dephosphatation, occurred simultaneously during biological aerobic treatment of thermophilically digested sludge. Under optimal conditions, organic matter degradation was 9.6%, the concentrations of ammonium nitrogen and phosphate decreased by 89 and 83%, respectively, while COD decreased by 12%. Dewaterability of digested sludge improved significantly. The processes were found to depend on hydraulic retention time, oxygen regime, and temperature. The optimal conditions were as follows: hydraulic retention time 3–4 days, temperature 30–35 °C, dissolved oxygen levels 0.2–
0.5 mg/L at continuous aeration or 0.7–1 mg/L at intermittent aeration. Based on these findings, we propose a new combined technology of wastewater sludge treatment. The technology combines two stages: anaerobic digestion followed by aerobic biological treatment of digested sludge. The proposed technology makes it possible to degrade the sludge with conversion of ∼45% volatile suspended solids to biogas, to improve nitrogen and phosphorus removal in reject water from sludge treatment units, and to achieve removal of malodorous substances after 8–9 days of anaerobic–aerobic sludge treatment.
Keywords: aerobic biological treatment of the sludge, malodorous emission, nitrogen, phosphorus, reject water from sludge treatment, thermophilic anaerobic digestion