The aim of this work was to evaluate the long-term performance of a Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) that operated continuously for 2.5 years and to assess membrane fouling and biomass activity under various operating conditions. Furthermore, a method for the characterisation of influent wastewater was developed based on its separation into various fractions. The MBR system operated at the solids retention times (SRT) of 10, 15, 20 and 33 days. The increase of SRT resulted in a decrease of the fouling rate associated with the reduction of extracellular polymeric substances. Moreover, the SRT increase resulted in a significant reduction of the Oxygen Uptake Rate (OUR) due to the lower availability of substrate and in a notable decrease of the maximum OUR since high SRT allowed the development of slower growing microorganisms. Biomass consisted of small flocs due to extensive deflocculation caused by intense aeration. Finally, the method developed for wastewater characterisation is straightforward and less time consuming than the usual method that is employed.
Keywords: biomass activity, fouling, fractionation, MBR