Improving Biological Wastewater Treatment Process Control through ATP-Based Parameters

Biological wastewater treatment processes harness the ability of microorganisms to break down and assimilate organic compounds that, if left untreated, cause detriment to the environment. Although this process occurs naturally, engineered systems are used to accelerate the process by optimizing bioreactor conditions to promote higher-than-typical biomass concentrations, thus increasing the rate of removal of biodegradable substances. However, in part due to the lack of an effective monitoring parameter for living biomass, these systems are rarely able to maximize efficiency and can be prone to debilitating upsets. Through years of research, LuminUltra Technologies Ltd. has developed test kits based on the measurement of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) for rapid and accurate monitoring of the concentration and health of living biomass at any location in a biological wastewater treatment system. ATP-based control parameters include: Cellular ATP (cATPTM), a measure of living biomass concentration or energy level; Biomass Stress Index (BSITM), a measure of living biomass relative health; and Active Biomass Ratio (ABRTM), a measure of the proportion of bioreactor inventory that is living. This paper will describe the advantages of operating biological wastewater treatment processes based on ATP control and discuss some conceptual control schemes that exploit optimization opportunities, such as Food-to-Microorganism ratios, supplement feed rates, mixing efficiency, load balancing, and more.

As early as thirty-five years ago, the value of monitoring ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in biological waste treatment was recognized (Paterson et al., 1970). More recently, Archibald et al (2001), in a study using a suite of respirometric tests on mixed liquor from paper mill activated sludge processes, concluded that ATP measurements provided a useful monitor of the proportion of viable cells and a toxicity indicator in an activated sludge process. The continuing scientific interest in ATP monitoring of biological waste treatment processes is not surprising. As the keystone of metabolic activity (Lehninger, 1982), most of the energy within microorganisms is stored and transmitted via ATP. ATP is produced as microbial food and is subsequently utilized for cell maintenance and the synthesis of new cells and biochemicals.

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