Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Daniel H. Yeh, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey A. Cunningham, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarina J. Ergas, Ph.D.


Activated Sludge, Membrane Fouling, Nitrogen Removal, Phosphorus Removal, Wastewater Treatment


With increasing water reuse applications and upcoming stringent regulations for treated wastewater effluent discharge, wastewater plants need to consider alternative technologies beyond conventional treatment processes. The new regulations, Numeric Nutrient Criteria (NNC), may regulate discharge nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations to as low as 0.5 mg/L as N and 10 μg/L as P respectively. To meet these target requirements, system retrofitting to incorporate chemical or advanced nutrient removal systems possibly with membrane technology will most likely be required. Although microfiltration/ultrafiltration membranes coupled with biological processes, otherwise known as membrane bioreactors (MBR), remove contaminants and suspended solids, nutrient removal is minimal to none. This emphasizes the importance of the biological process in MBRs. This study evaluated and tested the improvement of biological nutrient removal (BNR) in an MBR system which can meet NNC regulations along with the optimization of membrane operation for the reduction of fouling and energy consumption.

A pilot study was conducted at the City of Tampa wastewater treatment plant and was divided into four phases of experimentation using two submerged MBR membranes operated with modified biological configurations. Laboratory analyses and data collection were conducted during the experiments and the performance evaluated for each configuration. System configurations were also optimized throughout each phase of testing for nutrient removal. Important factors used in the development of an appropriate configuration included isolation of the membrane tank from the biological reactors in the design, control of the dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations or specifically the oxidation reduction potential (ORP) during operation and appropriate internal recirculation rates between the reactors.

The results of this study provided information relevant for the assessment of both the BNR process and membrane performance. Membrane performance data indicated the importance and effect of air scouring (despite energy consumption) on membrane fouling for long-term stable flux operation as well as the cleaning frequency whether chemical enhanced backwash (CEB) or clean-in-place (CIP). This assessment also discussed how BNR systems can be enhanced through the incorporation of important design factors to eliminate the inhibiting factors of nitrogen and phosphorus removal such as dissolved oxygen. One of the biological processes tested in this study achieved effluent nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations below 5 mg/L and 1 mg/L respectively. Although the process tested did not meet NNC criteria, it can be applied with chemical precipitation. This, in turn, can reduce the operating and maintenance (O&M) costs associated with the chemical precipitation of phosphorus.