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Why is aerobic degradation more important than anaerobic degradation for the treatment of large volumes of waste waters rich in organic matter? Discuss.

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Why is aerobic degradation more important than anaerobic degradation for the treatment of large volumes of waste waters rich in organic matter? Discuss.

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Secondary treatment or Biological treatment:

The primary effluent is passed into large aeration tanks where it is constantly agitated mechanically and air is pumped into it. This allows vigorous growth of useful aerobic microbes into floes (masses of bacteria associated with fungal filaments to form mesh like structures). While growing, these microbes consume the major part of the organic matter in the effluent. This significantly reduces the BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) of the effluent. BOD refers to the amount of the oxygen that would be consumed if all the organic matter in one litre of water were oxidised by bacteria. The sewage water is treated till the BOD is reduced. The BOD test measures the rate of uptake of oxygen by microorganisms in a sample of water and thus, indirectly, BOD is a measure of the organic matter present in the water. The greater the BOD of waste water, more is its polluting potential.

Once the BOD of sewage or waste water is reduced significantly, the effluent is then passed into a settling tank where the bacterial ‘floes’ are allowed to sediment. This sediment is called activated sludge. A small part of the activated sludge is pumped back into the aeration tank to serve as the inoculum. The remaining major part of the sludge is pumped into large tanks called anaerobic sludge digesters. Here, other kinds of bacteria, which grow anaerobically, digest the bacteria and the fungi in the sludge. During this digestion, bacteria produce a mixture of gases such as methane, hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide. These gases form biogas and can be used as source of energy as it is inflammable.

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