Aerobic biological treatment with activated sludge is the predominant process all over the world for treatment of pulp and paper industry wastewater. 50–70% of the biodegradable organic material is oxidized to CO2 and the rest is converted to bacterial biomass, typically termed as excess sludge or waste activated sludge (WAS). Handling and disposal of WAS in general and in particular from the pulp and paper industry face different processing difficulties, regulatory stringency due to organochlorine contamination and reluctance of people for reuse. With an objective of reducing the net disposable biomass, ozonation of WAS from a pulp and paper mill and from a laboratory scale batch activated sludge process operated with the wastewater and bacterial seed of the same pulp and paper mill have been carried out. With the mill sludge having predominant filamentous organisms 18% MLSS was reduced at an ozone dosage of 55 mg O3/g dry MLSS solid (DS) resulting in 2.5 times COD increase. With the laboratory sludge which is well structured and flocculating, only 6% MLSS was reduced at an ozone dosage of 55 mg O3/g DS. Ozonation mineralizes 26% and 20% AOX compounds embedded in the secondary sludge in the mill and laboratory sludge respectively at an ozone dosage of 55 mg O3/g DS. During ozonation, absorbed/adsorbed lignin on biomass was released which resulted in increased colour concentration. Ozonation can be a potential oxidative pretreatment process for reducing the WAS and paving the way for cost effective overall treatment of WAS.
Keywords: activated sludge process, AOX, ozonation, pulp and paper industry wastewater, sludge reduction, waste activated sludge