Thermal and enzymatic pretreatment of sludge containing phthalate esters prior to mesophilic anaerobic digestion

Hariklia N. Gavala, U. Yenal, Birgitte Kiær Ahring

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    The present study aimed at investigating the effect of thermal pretreatment of sludge at 70degreesC on the anaerobic degradation of three commonly found phthalic acid esters (PAE): di-ethyl phthalate (DEP), di-butyl phthalate (DBP), and di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). Also, the enzymatic treatment at 28degreesC with a commercial lipase was studied as a way to enhance PAE removal. Pretreatment at 70degreesC of the sludge containing PAE negatively influenced the anaerobic biodegradability of phthalate esters at 37degreesC. The observed reduction of PAE biodegradation rates after the thermal pretreatment was found to be proportional to the PAE solubility in water: the higher the solubility, the higher the percentage of the reduction (DEP > DBP > DEHP). PAE were slowly degraded during the pretreatment at 70degreesC, yet this was probably due to physicochemical reactions than to microbial/biological activity. Therefore, thermal pretreatment of sludge containing PAE should be either avoided or combined with a treatment step focusing on PAE reduction. On the other hand, enzymatic treatment was very efficient in the removal of PAE. The enzymatic degradation of DBP, DEP, and DEHP could be one to two orders of magnitude faster than under normal mesophilic anaerobic conditions. Moreover, the enzymatic treatment resulted in the shortest half-life of DEHP in sludge reported so far. Our study further showed that enzymatic treatment with lipases can be applied to raw sludge and its efficiency does not depend on the solids concentration.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)561-567
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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