Non-filamentous bulking is often overlooked as a wastewater treatment problem. Operators facing viscous bulking often complain of "gelatinous" floc, that billows over the clarifier weir and is difficult to dewater on the secondary press.
We see viscous bulking when the bacteria begin to produce excessive quantities of extracelluar polysaccharides (EPS). In normal good floc, it is the EPS that acts as the glue to hold bacteria cells and adsorbed (outside cell wall) particles. When cells begin to overproduce the EPS, the previous glue begins to hold excessive amounts of water and is very vulnerable to sheer. The resulting sludge does not compact well and can easily be carried over secondary weirs. The return sludge (RAS) concentration is lower as we are returning more water relative to biological solids which further compounds the problem.
You can see viscous bulking under normal light microscopy as "fingers" and gelatinous appearance. The appearance can be enhanced for better observation by adding India Ink to the slide. The India Ink will not penetrate the EPS and will appear as clear zones around the floc.
Causes of Viscous Bulking
Erik Rumbaugh has been involved in biological waste treatment for over 20 years. He has worked with industrial and municipal wastewater facilities to ensure optimal performance of their treatment systems. He is a founder of Aster Bio (www.asterbio.com) specializing in biological waste treatment.
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