The effect of phosphorus enrichment on fractionation of metals and phosphorus in anaerobically digested sludge
In designated nutrient-sensitive areas, phosphorus must be removed from sewage before it is discharged to the receiving water body. Phosphorus-rich sludge is generated, which is usually digested anaerobically prior to disposal. This research investigated the effect of phosphorus enrichment on metal and phosphorus fractionation in anaerobically digested sludge. The use of two complementary sequential chemical extraction procedures to measure phosphorus and metal fractionation, was a key focus of the research. The fractionation procedures were tested by sequentially extracting inorganic compounds (phosphates, sulphides and carbonates) which showed that the operationally defined metal and phosphorus fractions were not always representative of precise metal phases. Species were tentatively assigned to metal and phosphorus fractions using model compound results. Laboratory-scale batch anaerobic digestion experiments were performed, in which model compounds were used to simulate conditions of soluble and insoluble phosphorus enrichment. Soluble phosphorus at concentrations of 500 mg/l or greater was found to retard volatile solids removal and methane production in the laboratory digesters. Soluble phosphorus enrichment facilitated precipitation of calcium, magnesium and manganese but increased trace metal solubility, particularly that of chromium. Enrichment of digesters with Na2HP04 and MgCb caused struvite to precipitate in digesters containing 1000 mg/l of additional phosphorus. FeP04 enrichment of digested sludge showed that ferric iron was reduced to ferrous iron, releasing soluble phosphorus into the digester. Most of the phosphorus was reprecipitated as ferrous phosphate, causing co-precipitation of magnesium, manganese and cobalt. By contrast, A1P04 added to the digesters was stable in the sludge. Full-scale CPR sludge digestion (Fe2(S04)3 dosing) caused soluble phosphorus in the digester to decrease below 0.05 mg/l. Phosphorus remained associated with iron in the sludge fraction but soluble calcium and magnesium concentrations in the full-scale digester increased as a result of CPR sludge digestion. Comparison of laboratory and full-scale results showed that the fate of iron-precipitated phosphorus in digested sludge was primarily dependent pn the molar ratio of Fe:P in the sludge. Full-scale BPR sludge digestion showed high concentrations of soluble phosphorus in the digester and some struvite precipitation, although phosphorus was precipitated primarily as calcium phosphate, as was found to occur in the laboratory digesters simulating BPR sludge digestion.