Advanced steady-state model for the fate of hydrophobic and volatile compounds in activated sludge

Kuan Chun Lee, Bruce E. Rittmann, Jichun Shi, Drew McAvoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


A steady-state, advanced, general fate model developed to study the fate of organic compounds in primary and activated-sludge systems. This model considers adsorption, biodegradation from the dissolved and adsorbed phases, bubble volatilization, and surface volatilization as removal mechanisms. A series of modeling experiments was performed to identify the key trends of these removal mechanisms for compounds with a range of molecular properties. With typical municipal wastewater treatment conditions, the results from the modeling experiments show that co-metabolic and primary utilization mechanisms give very different trends in biodegradation for the compounds tested. For co-metabolism, the effluent concentration increases when the influent concentration increases, while the effluent concentration remains unchanged when primary utilization occurs, For a highly hydrophobic compound (partition coefficient Kd>0.01 m3/g VSS), the fraction of compound removed from adsorption onto primary sludge can be very important, and the direct biodegradation of compound sorbed to the activated sludge greatly increases its biodegradation and reduces its discharge with the waste activated sludge. Volatilization from the surface of the primary and secondary systems is important for compounds with moderate to high volatilities (Henry's law constant Hc = 0.001 to 0.1 m3 water/m3 air), especially when these compounds are not biodegradable. Finally, bubble volatilization can be a major removal mechanism for highly volatile compounds (Hc>0.8 m3 water/m3 air), even when they are highly biodegradable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1118-1131
Number of pages14
JournalWater Environment Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Activated sludge
  • Adsorption
  • Biodegradation
  • Fate model
  • Hydrophobic compounds
  • Primary and secondary utilization
  • Volatilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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