Microthrix parvicella abundance associates with activated sludge settling velocity and rheology - Quantifying and modelling filamentous bulking

Dorottya Sarolta Wágner, Elham Ramin, Peter Szabo, Arnaud Dechesne, Benedek G. Plósz

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The objective of this work is to identify relevant settling velocity and rheology model parameters and to assess the underlying filamentous microbial community characteristics that can influence the solids mixing and transport in secondary settling tanks. Parameter values for hindered, transient and compression settling velocity functions were estimated by carrying out biweekly batch settling tests using a novel column setup through a four-month long measurement campaign. To estimate viscosity model parameters, rheological experiments were carried out on the same sludge sample using a rotational viscometer. Quantitative fluorescence in-situ hybridisation (qFISH) analysis, targeting Microthrix parvicella and phylum Chloroflexi, was used. This study finds that M. parvicella - predominantly residing inside the microbial flocs in our samples - can significantly influence secondary settling through altering the hindered settling velocity and yield stress parameter. Strikingly, this is not the case for Chloroflexi, occurring in more than double the abundance of M. parvicella, and forming filaments primarily protruding from the flocs. The transient and compression settling parameters show a comparably high variability, and no significant association with filamentous abundance. A two-dimensional, axi-symmetrical computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model was used to assess calibration scenarios to model filamentous bulking. Our results suggest that model predictions can significantly benefit from explicitly accounting for filamentous bulking by calibrating the hindered settling velocity function. Furthermore, accounting for the transient and compression settling velocity in the computational domain is crucial to improve model accuracy when modelling filamentous bulking. However, the case-specific calibration of transient and compression settling parameters as well as yield stress is not necessary, and an average parameter set - obtained under bulking and good settling conditions - can be used.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Research
Pages (from-to)121-132
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Activated sludge
  • Filamentous bacteria abundance
  • Hindered, transient and compression settling velocity
  • Rheology analysis and sludge viscosity
  • Secondary settling tank
  • Activated sludge process
  • Calibration
  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Elasticity
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Settling tanks
  • Tanks (containers)
  • Viscosity
  • Yield stress
  • Filamentous bacteria
  • Secondary settling tanks
  • Settling velocity
  • Sludge viscosity
  • Velocity

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