Effects of integrated fixed film activated sludge media on activated sludge settling in biological nutrient removal systems

Hyun su Kim, James W. Gellner, Joshua P. Boltz, Robert G. Freudenberg, Claudia K. Gunsch, Andrew J. Schuler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Integrated fixed film activated sludge (IFAS) is an increasingly popular modification of conventional activated sludge, consisting of the addition of solid media to bioreactors to create hybrid attached/suspended growth systems. While the benefits of this technology for improvement of nitrification and other functions are well-demonstrated, little is known about its effects on biomass settleability. These effects were evaluated in parallel, independent wastewater treatment trains, with and without IFAS media, both at the pilot (at two solids residence times) and full scales. While all samples demonstrated good settleability, the Control (non-IFAS) systems consistently demonstrated small but significant (p < 0.05) improvements in settleability relative to the IFAS trains. Differences in biomass densities were identified as likely contributing factors, with Control suspended phase density > IFAS suspended phase density > IFAS attached phase (biofilm) density. Polyphosphate content (as non-soluble phosphorus) was well-correlated with density. This suggested that the attached phases had relatively low densities because of their lack of anaerobic/aerobic cycling and consequent low content of polyphosphate-accumulating organisms, and that differences in enhanced biological phosphorus removal performance between the IFAS and non-IFAS systems were likely related to the observed differences in density and settleability for the suspended phases. Decreases in solids retention times from 8 to 4 days resulted in improved settleability and increased density in all suspended phases, which was related to increased phosphorus content in the biomass, while no significant changes in density and phosphorus content were observed in attached phases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1553-1561
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR)
  • Integrated fixed-film activated sludge (IFAS)
  • Nitrification
  • Settleability
  • Solids density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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