A pilot scale study was conducted on a down-flow hanging sponge (DHS) reactor installed at a sewage treatment plant in Banda Aceh, Indonesia for treatment of desludging septic tank wastewater. Raw wastewater with an average biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and total suspended solids of 139 mg/L and 191 mg/L, respectively, was pumped into the reactor. Two different hydraulic retention times (HRTs, 3 h and 4 h) were investigated, equivalent to organic loadings of 1.11 and $0.78kg\;BOD/m^3/d$, respectively. The average BOD concentration in the final effluent was 46 and 26 mg/L at HRTs of 3 and 4 h, respectively. The concentration of retained sludge along the reactor height was 10.2-18.7 g VSS/L-sponge, and the sludge activities were 0.24-0.32 and 0.04-0.40 mg/g VSS/h for heterotrophs and nitrification, respectively. Values of water hold-up volume, dispersion coefficient, and number of tank in-series found from tracer studies of clean sponge and biomass-loaded sponge confirmed that growth of retained sludge on the sponge module improved hydraulic performance of the reactor. Adoption of the DHS reactor by this Indonesian sewage treatment plant would enhance the role of the current desludging septic tank wastewater treatment system.
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