Reconsidering rotating biological contactors as an option for municipal wastewater treatment

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Courtesy of Total Water Solutions (TWS)

There are many domestic wastewater treatment processes in use today. Generally, they are all biological systems and they may be broadly categorized as either fixed film processes or suspended growth processes. During the 1970s and early 1980s, the rotating biological contactor process (RBC), a particularly efficient fixed film process, became popular. However, the primary manufacturer of RBCs in the United States manufactured some defective equipment in that time period, which led to mechanical failures and tainted the market for this process. This has caused most consulting engineers to dismiss this option from consideration.

We were recently asked to revisit this process by one of our clients and the information that we uncovered in this investigation we felt was worth sharing.

A brief overview of what we found was that RBCs may be the best process choice for some wastewater treatment plants because of their proven simplicity, reliable performance, and low energy usage (particularly important when considering LEED qualification). RBC manufacturers made several important improvements to this, over forty year old, technology to increase process performance and provide an even more robust mechanical design. For these reasons, we believe that the RBC process deserves greater consideration during process selection process than is common.

This paper presents the information found in our investigation in a FAQ format. It presents answers to twelve of the most frequently asked questions regarding the use of RBCs for wastewater treatment. Before presenting those questions and answers, the following statements by RBC operators provide a “front row” evaluation of RBCs.

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