Use Of Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor To Treat High-strength Food Processing Wastewater

By Shannon R. Grant, Dwain Wilson, ZaiYan Mi and Dale Mills


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The anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) process incorporates anaerobic digestion and membrane filtration in one system that effectively treats high-strength and high-solids wastewater by producing an anaerobic effluent of superior quality with virtually no suspended solids. AnMBR technology offers the advantage of complete retention of biomass in the reactor, leading to a very stable process in a compact system footprint that maximizes the production of biogas that can be used as a renewable fuel source.

The first full-scale AnMBR system installed in North America was at Ken’s Foods in Marlborough, MA, to treat salad dressing and BBQ sauce production wastewater.

The AnMBR system at Ken’s Foods is comprised of the existing anaerobic reactor, plus four membranes. It was designed to treat 125,000 gallons per day (gpd) of raw wastewater with 39,000 milligrams per liter (mg/L) chemical oxygen demand (COD), 18,000 mg/L biological oxygen demand (BOD), 12,000 mg/L total suspended solids (TSS), and 1,500 mg/L fat, oil and grease (FOG) (at the time of design). The required effluent discharge limits for BOD and TSS are 400 pounds per day (lb/d), and 500 lb/d (equivalent to 380 mg/L BOD, and 480 mg/L TSS at design flow) for discharge to the local publicly owned treatment works (POTW). 

The AnMBR produces a consistent, high-quality effluent with non-detectable TSS concentrations and average COD and BOD concentrations of 275 mg/L, and less than 25 mg/L, respectively; corresponding to average COD, BOD, and TSS removals of 99.3%, 99.9%, and approximately 100%, respectively. During the 8 years of continuous operation, the AnMBR system consistently performs well, providing process stability and excellent membrane performance.

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