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The study investigated the performance of the pre-denitrification membrane bioreactor (MBR) process to treat high-strength wastewater generated from food waste disposals. Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) as membrane foulant and microbial community profiles were analyzed under different hydraulic retention time (HRT) operation conditions. The pre-denitrification MBR was effective for treating food wastewater with high chemical oxygen demand (COD)/N resulting in high total nitrogen (TN) removal efficiency. The operational data showed that effluent qualities in terms of COD, TN, and TP improved with longer HRT. However, membrane fouling potential as shown by specific membrane fouling rate and specific resistance to filtration (SRF) increased as HRT increased. The longer HRT conditions or lower influent loading led to higher levels of bound EPS while HRT did not show large effects on the level of soluble microbial products (SMP). The restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis showed similar microbial banding patterns from the sludges generated under different HRT conditions, indicating that HRT had minimal effects on the composition of microbial communities in the system. All these results suggest that the MBR with pre-denitrification is a feasible option for treating high-strength food wastewater and that different HRT conditions could affect the operational performance and the fouling rate, which is governed via changes in microbial responses through EPS in the system.







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