Industrial emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds are usually discontinuous. To assess the impact of interruptions in pollutant supply on the performance of biological treatment systems, two identical biofilters previously operated under continuous toluene loadings were subjected for 110 days to extended (12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84 and 96 h) and for a week to daily (8 h on, 16 h off) toluene starvation/shutdown events. One biofilter was operated under complete shutdowns (both air and toluene supply were interrupted), while the other maintained the air supply under toluene starvation. The biofilter operated under complete shutdowns was able to withstand both the extended and daily pollutant interruptions, while starvation periods >24 h severely impacted the performance of the other biofilter, with a removal efficiency decrease from 97.7 ± 0.1% to 45.4 ± 6.7% at the end of the extended starvation periods. This deterioration was likely due to a reduction in liquid lixiviation (from a total volume of 2380 mL to 1800 mL) mediated by the countercurrent airflow during the starvation periods. The presence of air under toluene starvation also favored the accumulation of inactive biomass, thus increasing the pressure drop from 337 to 700 mm H2O.m−1, while decreasing the wash out of acidic by-products with a significantly higher pH of leachates (Student paired t-test <0.05). This study confirmed the need to prevent the accumulation of inhibitory compounds produced during process perturbation in order to increase biofiltration robustness. Process operation with sufficient drainage in the packing material and the absence of countercurrent airflow are highly recommended during toluene deprivation periods.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Dec 1, 2017
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