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Water Res. 2012 Sep 1;46(13):3999-4008. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2012.05.009. Epub 2012 May 16.

Inactivation mechanisms of bacterial pathogen indicators during electro-dewatering of activated sludge biosolids.

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Department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics, McGill University, 817 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 0C3, Canada.


Electro-dewatering is an energy-efficient technology in which an electric field can increase the dryness of biosolids from secondary wastewater treatment from 15% w/w to 30-50% w/w. Here, we address bacterial pathogen indicators inactivation (total coliforms, Escherichia coli and aerobic endospores) during electro-dewatering, investigating the roles of electrochemically generated oxidants, extreme pH, and high temperature (from Joule heating). Our results demonstrate that temperature is the primary factor affecting total coliforms and E. coli inactivation. First, several electro-dewatering cycles were used to increase sludge temperature to about 100 °C after 6 min, during which time the average pH decreased from 7 to 3.6 after 10 min. Total coliforms and E. coli MPNs reached their detection limits after 6 min (with 4-5 logs of inactivation for total coliforms and 3-4 logs for E. coli). In contrast, aerobic endospores were not inactivated under these conditions; rather, their germination appeared to be stimulated by 6-8 min of electro-dewatering. Second, the dewatering cake was separated into four horizontal layers. After 8 min of electro-dewatering, the pH in the top layers decreased to 3, whereas the pH in the bottom layers increased to 8. Inactivation of total coliforms and E. coli in the sludge cake was similar in all layers, increasing with time, suggesting that oxidants and extreme pH are secondary inactivation factors. Finally, electrodes were cooled to maintain a temperature less than 34 °C. Although pH decreased significantly after 12 min of electro-dewatering, there was no significant bacterial pathogen indicator inactivation at low temperature.

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