Sludge accumulation and distribution impact the hydraulic performance in waste stabilisation ponds

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    27 Citations (Scopus)


    Waste stabilisation ponds (WSPs) are used worldwide for wastewater treatment, and throughout their operation require periodic sludge surveys. Sludge accumulation in WSPs can impact performance by reducing the effective volume of the pond, and altering the pond hydraulics and wastewater treatment efficiency. Traditionally, sludge heights, and thus sludge volume, have been measured using low-resolution and labour intensive methods such as ‘sludge judge’ and the ‘white towel test’. A sonar device, a readily available technology, fitted to a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was shown to improve the spatial resolution and accuracy of sludge height measurements, as well as reduce labour and safety requirements. Coupled with a dedicated software package, the profiling of several WSPs has shown that the ROV with autonomous sonar device is capable of providing sludge bathymetry with greatly increased spatial resolution in a greatly reduced profiling time, leading to a better understanding of the role played by sludge accumulation in hydraulic performance of WSPs. The high-resolution bathymetry collected was used to support a much more detailed hydrodynamic assessment of systems with low, medium and high accumulations of sludge. The results of the modelling show that hydraulic performance is not only influenced by the sludge accumulation, but also that the spatial distribution of sludge plays a critical role in reducing the treatment capacity of these systems. In a range of ponds modelled, the reduction in residence time ranged from 33% in a pond with a uniform sludge distribution to a reduction of up to 60% in a pond with highly channelized flow. The combination of high-resolution measurement of sludge accumulation and hydrodynamic modelling will help in the development of frameworks for wastewater sludge management, including the development of more reliable computer models, and could potentially have wider application in the monitoring of other small to medium water bodies, such as channels, recreational water bodies, and commercial ports.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)354-365
    Number of pages12
    JournalWater Research
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


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