The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the novel aerobic granular sludge (AGS) wastewater treatment technology in removing faecal indicator organisms (FIOs) compared to the conventional activated sludge (CAS) treatment system. The work was carried out at two full-scale wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) in the Netherlands, Vroomshoop and Garmerwolde. Both treatment plants have a CAS and AGS system operated in parallel. The parallel treatment lines are provided with the same influent wastewater. The concentrations of the measured FIOs in the influent of the two WWTPs were comparable with reported literature values as follows: F-specific RNA bacteriophages at 106 PFU/100 mL, and Escherichia coli (E. coli), Enterococci, and Thermotolerant coliforms (TtC) at 105 to 106 CFU/100 mL. Although both systems (CAS and AGS) are different in terms of design, operation, and microbial community, both systems showed similar FIOs removal efficiency. At the Vroomshoop WWTP, Log10 removals for F-specific RNA bacteriophages of 1.4 ± 0.5 and 1.3 ± 0.6 were obtained for the AGS and CAS systems, while at the Garmerwolde WWTP, Log10 removals for F-specific RNA bacteriophages of 1.9 ± 0.7 and 2.1 ± 0.7 were found for the AGS and CAS systems. Correspondingly, E. coli, Enterococci, and TtC Log10 removals of 1.7 ± 0.7 and 1.1 ± 0.7 were achieved for the AGS and CAS systems at Vroomshoop WWTP. For Garmerwolde WWTP Log10 removals of 2.3 ± 0.8 and 1.9 ± 0.7 for the AGS and CAS systems were found, respectively. The measured difference in removal rates between the plants was not significant. Physicochemical water quality parameters, such as the concentrations of organic matter, nutrients, and total suspended solids (TSS) were also determined. Overall, it was not possible to establish a direct correlation between the physicochemical parameters and the removal of FIOs for any of the treatment systems (CAS and AGS). Only the removal of TSS could be positively correlated to the E. coli removal for the AGS technology at the evaluated WWTPs.
- Activated sludge
- Aerobic granular sludge
- F-specific RNA bacteriophages
- Faecal indicators
- Pathogen removal