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Wastewater Treatment

Trickle-Flow Biotechnology
A modern process for highly efficient wastewater treatment
Wastewater treatment, trickle-ow bioreactor, granulated carrier material

Lutz Haldenwang, Kerstin Ilgen, Horst Reichardt, Mathias Kasek, Edith Armanetti, Cynthia Lima
Increased requirements for environmental protection and rising sewage fees forces many industrial companies
to have their own plant for wastewater treatment. As a result there is a growing demand for stable processes
that permit cost savings or the re-use of wastewater by only having little operational and maintenance effort.

Water The most important resource

for mankind
Since 2008, for the first time, there are more people living in cities than in rural areas. The increasing density of
urban areas and advancing intensification of industrial
production is making resource water going to be
claimed worldwide to an extent not known so far. In
spite of applicable regulations the assimilative capacities of the natural waters are overburdened in many
areas. Quite often rivers, lakes and coastal regions are to
a large extent biologically dead which influences the
hygiene of the public drinking water supply.
Unlike all other natural resources and despite serious
pollution water can be transferred back to its original
state. For this reason a great demand of efficient technologies for wastewater treatment exists.

Growing pressure on companies

Elevated, organic loads cause a massive imbalance in
biological equilibrium due to high oxygen consumption
during their microbiological degradation. Therefore, for
the discharge of wastewater into waters, strict regulations in many countries apply to the sum of organics of
COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) and BOD (Biochemical
Oxygen Demand).
As a result of the pressure of public authorities as
well as their own economic considerations and
increased environmental consciousness, many companies from the industrial as well as the waste management sector are increasingly forced to treat their effluents in their own plant. Because of high operating costs
or necessary repairs many of those already existing
plants are run at an insufficient cleaning capacity.

Different technologies
When using physiochemical treatment the organic load
will either be separated in the form of a concentrated
solution and disposed of at great expense or decomposed against high energy expenditure.
However, biological treatment benefit from the
broad spectrum of natural microorganisms to treat
organic burdened wastewater nature-orientated and
without the use of chemicals. Modern aerobic treatment work with a small reactor volume and high biomass concentrations. Though, a high application of
energy for the continuously necessary aeration is
required to reach a good efficiency of degradation.
Anaerobic treatment do not need aeration, but are less
stable and do not completely degrade the organic load.
They are efficient only if a high load and sufficient
biogas extraction are present and no low limiting values
are required.
Conaprole consists of nine production facilities with
1,700 employees and is the major dairy food
exporting company in South America. ( DAS)


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One-stop wastewater treatment

Based on this requirement for an aerobic treatment with
a compact design and low operating costs, the trickle-

Wastewater Treatment

flow biotechnology has been developed and launched

in recent years. The DAS Environmental Expert GmbH,
headquartered in the Saxon capital Dresden and with
numerous branches in Asia and America, offers complete, automated plants for the treatment of municipal
wastewater, industrial wastewater and wastewater from
the waste management industry. The trickle-flow bioreactor will be used for the degradation of the organic and
the nitrogen load as well as for the discharge into the
canalization, the discharge into receiving waters as well
as for the re-use of purified water.
Oftentimes, an additional equalization, solid-state
separation or decolouration is necessary. Therefore, the
modularly structured biological stage will be adapted
individually to the prevailing conditions together with
the equipment for the pre-treatment, e.g. filtration, neutralization and grease separation. A compact design and
a simple configuration of the plant permit easy integration into the already existing structure of the respective
Treatment, which permit the re-use of treated wastewater, is in many cases a matter of particular interest for
the customer. If required this high water quality can be
guaranteed by increasing the volume of the biological
stage or by a downstream membrane filtration.

Effective aeration
The trickle-flow bioreactor is not filled with water and
works with granulated carrier material which remains in
the form of a loosely packed bed even after long operation. Compared to all modern treatments, for which the
aeration has to be carried out against the pressure of the
water head and does increase with the level of pollution,
the continuous oxygen supply can be carried out with
little effort. The necessary aeration will be done in the
counter flow to the downward trickling wastewater by a
simple ventilator with minimal energy consumption.
Very short mass transfers between solute pollutants,
carrier material and excess oxygen permit a high efficiency of degradation for slightly and also heavily polluted wastewater at low operating costs. The necessary
oxygen is always sufficiently present in the trickle-flow
bioreactor even at a higher water temperature and at
lower solubility. Temperatures between 25 C and 35 C,
which are often present in industrial wastewater, can be
completely used for a high biological activity.
The treatment of industrial wastewater is in the
majority of cases characterized by strong fluctuations in
concentration and composition and requires an uncomplicated and firm handling. As the microorganisms can
stay in the trickle-flow bioreactor for an unlimited
period of time, a mixed population optimally adapted
to the respective conditions emerges. The simultaneous degradation of readily biodegradable and persistent compounds guarantees a very high degree of degradation when operating stably.


After a comparatively short assembly time a few

months after the placing of order by the end of 2008
a rst stage with two bioreactors for a partial current
treatment has been put into operation. ( DAS)

Minimal effort
The effort for the customer by installing the trickle-flow
bioreactor is very small. It only requires the supply of
energy and wastewater. Bioreactors and pipelines consist of plastic material and do not need corrosion protection. Even in the case of difficult climatic conditions
they are only subject to little wear. The carrier material is
completely inert and does not need to be changed. Due
to the special procedural principle the automated process is characterized by little operational and maintenance effort.
The plants have only little place requirements and
will be adapted optimally in size and design to the different assignments of activities. If the production will be
increased or if the limiting values will be tightened, the
plants can be extended on short notice and in an
uncomplicated way by additional modules. Trickle-flow
technology plants are already in operation in Germany,
Switzerland, Czech Republic, Greece and Aruba for the
treatment of wastewater from the food industry, breweries and the beverage industry, the chemical and textile industry, as well as, the energy and waste management industry.

Example food industry

The following is an example of the measurement, the
assembly and the first results of a plant for wastewater
treatment in a large company in South America. Conaprole consists of nine production facilities with 1,700
employees and is the major dairy food exporting company in South America, as well as one of the largest
companies in Uruguay. Conaprole exports its products
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Wastewater Treatment

Table 1.
Flow rate

Energy demand

Energy demand
[kWh/m3 treated wastewater]


approx. 0.42

Table 2.




Thin sludge/
20 g/L
dry matter



approx. 14

production in the branch of Montevideo to the limiting

values before discharge into the municipal sewage
plant. A comparison of different processes for wastewater treatment has been worked out by an engineering
office which has been commissioned by Conaprole with
a guarantee of all regulations for safety, quality management and environmental protection. Beside a valuation
of investment and operating costs it has been paid great
attention to usability, little place requirements and the
possibility for future extensions. Furthermore, there was
the request for a smooth integration of the plant into
the ongoing business.

Adjustment through modular design

Table 3.
Routine inspections


Man hour

Specific qualification not necessary

approx. 1

to more than 40 countries. Environmental compliance is

an important factor for the company strategy. In the
branch in Montevideo the fresh milk, as well as a multitude of ice and yoghurt specialities are being produced
for whole Greater Montevideo. Consequently, this
branch is of particular importance.
The task consisted of lowering the concentrations of
COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) and BOD (Biochemical
Oxygen Demand) in the combined wastewater of the

The trickleow bioreactor

is not lled
with water and
works with granulated carrier
material which
remains in the
form of a
loosely packed
bed even after
long operation.
( DAS)


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Every day over a period of 18 hours 1,600 m3 wastewater

from several production lines occur. It will be collected
and mixed in an equalizing tank made from concrete. In
addition, it is possible to design the following process
steps for the average wastewater contamination without load peaks and to operate the whole day. If there is
less volume of wastewater, e. g. on a Sunday, the bioreactors automatically re-circulate the water, which is
then led back into the equalizing tank. The solid-state
separation is carried out with a combination of a coarse
screen/primary grid (10 mm) and a fine screen (2 mm).
Subsequently, the wastewater is treated in a Dissolved
Air Flotation (DAF) by adding precipitants and flocculation agents. In addition, suspended solids as well as a
large part of the fats contained in the wastewater are
separated. The sludge is then treated with anaerobic
microorganisms in a digester.
According to the requirement the biological reactor
has been designed for a reduced concentration of COD
(Chemical Oxygen Demand) of less than 1,200 mg/L
instead of 3,000 mg/L and has been adapted to the
already existing stages described above. Based on the
good COD/BOD ratio, as well as the wide experience of
the treatment of similar wastewater a good biodegradability is assumed. Eight bioreactors ( 3 m; H 8 m) in
parallel alignment are already sufficient to guarantee
the required reduced concentrations of COD and BOD.
By reason of the great distance the examination of a
representative sample in the laboratory of the company,
as well as the bringing into service of a test plant on-site
has been abandoned. As the trickle-flow technology is
designed in a modular system, an assembly of the plant
in two steps has been arranged instead. Assembly and
initiation of a pilot plant/first stage permit adapting the
size and the design of the complete plant to the actual
requirements. At the same time there is the possibility
of an extension if required to comply with lower limiting
values for wastewater. After a comparatively short
assembly time a few months after the placing of order
by the end of 2008 a first stage with two bioreactors
for a partial current treatment has been put into

Wastewater Treatment


Advantages of the practical operation

Already within ten days from start-up a high activity biofilm appears on the carrier material. After another two
weeks the optimization has been completed by recording the performance of the system operation over a
period of 5 consecutive working days.
It could be proven that the high efficiency of degradation in reference to the design of 6,400 g COD
(Chemical Oxygen Demand) per cubic metre reactor
volume (gross) and per day has been stably maintained
and even partly exceeded. After fluctuations or interruptions of normal operation the full operating efficiency is restored within a few hours.
In the inflow there are suspended solids in the form
of fine dropping, floating and upward floating particles
in alternating concentrations. Due to the effective filtration of abundantly covered packed bed of the carrier
material their concentration of the outflow is mainly
between 1 mL/L and 5 mL/L. As oil and grease hinder
the mass transfer between wastewater and microorganisms, as well as require an additional biodegradability,
their concentration should be less than 200 mg/L. The
bioreactors are being automatically regenerated every
12 hours for a short term to maintain the biological
activity. It is not necessary to add additional backwash
water. The segregated biomass is comparatively very
low and can be added to the existing sludge treatment
without any problems.
Subject to an unlimited growth of biomass, the nutrients nitrogen and phosphor will be continuously added
in the form of ammonium and phosphate in small quantity. By using the biological treatment the smell of the
wastewater will be reduced from moderate/strong to
slight/very slight.

Little operational effort

Due to low energy costs, as well as little operational and
maintenance effort the trickle-flow biotechnology
offers advantages regarding operating costs over the
actual state of technology. It bears comparison with
worldwide known and conventional biotechnologies
like the activated sludge process, the trickling filter
process and the sequencing batch process as well as the
comparison with modern technologies like the membrane bioreactor.

Rapid refinancing
A simple assembly of the plants and little place requirements lead together with an optimal adjustment
through a modular design to relatively low investments
costs. Subject to the specific requirements the costs for
the plant with eight reactors described above amount
between 720,000.00 EUR and 760,000.00 EUR. The complete, automated plant with their planning, shipping to
port in Germany, assembly on-site as well as start-up is

A simple assembly of the plants and little place

requirements lead together with an optimal adjustment through a modular design to relatively low
investments costs. ( DAS)

included in those costs. Additional checking will be

done to see if costs can be saved through the assignment of local service technicians and by using assemblies from the region. Accordingly though depending
on the applicable charges a refinancing is already possible within a few years.

The trickle-flow bioreactor described above works
steadily and fulfils all requirements completely. All plant
components has been delivered from Germany and
then installed together with local service technicians
on-site and put into operation. With the extension of the
plant in the next months costs for packaging and shipping shall be saved additionally by using assemblies
from the region. Currently the application of this technology is being investigated for other branches of

DAS Environmental ExpertGmbH, Dr. Lutz Haldenwang,
Kerstin Ilgen, Dr. Horst Reichardt, Goppelner Strae 44, D-01219 Dresden,
Phone: + 49 (0)351 40494 000, E-Mail: contact@das-europe.com,
AB Consultores, Mathias Kasek, Diego Palma 65/3E B1642FJA San Isidro,
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Phone + 54 (11) 47329290,
E-Mail: mkasek@consultoresab.com, www.consultoresab.com;
CONAPROLE Cooperativa Nacional de Productores de Leche,
Dr. Edith Armanetti, Cynthia Lima, Magallanes 1871, Montevideo, Uruguay,
Phone + 598 (2) 9247171, E-Mail: earmanetti@conaprole.com.uy,
clima@conaprole.com.uy, www.conaprole.com.uy

International Issue 2009

gwf-Wasser Abwasser