The Use of Respirometry in Wastewater Treatment

As a wastewater operator, would it be valuable to learn in advance how operational changes such as the addition of certain chemicals, nutrient, or bio-augmentation products might affect the biological wastewater treatment plant?  The use of respirometry as an operational tool in the wastewater treatment field has emerged over the past several decades as a powerful aid in understanding and troubleshooting the activated sludge process. 

A respirometer is a device used to measure the rate of respiration of a living organism by measuring its rate of exchange of oxygen and/or carbon dioxide. It allows investigation into how factors such as age of the microorganisms or the addition of chemicals affect the rate of respiration. Respirometers are designed to measure respiration either on the level of a whole animal or plant, or on the cellular level.

With increasingly more stringent pollutant limits, the use of respirometry to study and evaluate municipal and industrial wastewater treatment processes will assist regulated communities in optimizing their systems.  Respirometry can be a valuable tool in enhancing nutrient removal and energy utilization at wastewater treatment facilities in Ohio.

In order to ensure the effective use of activated sludge in the treatment process and the minimization of nutrient contamination, operators need to have the technology and tools required to determine the effectiveness of treatment. Respirometry testing can be used to evaluate the impact of different waste streams on biological treatment systems. When new and existing waste streams enter into the plant, the toxicity of the contaminants is often not determined until the wastewater treatment process starts to fail. Respirometry provides a sound method to determine if the waste stream has the potential to cause a plant upset before the upset occurs along with potential NPDES violations.

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