G. Scarascia, L. Fortunato, Y. Myshkevych, H. Cheng, T.O. Leiknes, P.-Y. Hong
Anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) for wastewater treatment has attracted much interest due to its efficacy in providing high quality effluent with minimal energy costs. However, membrane biofouling represents the main bottleneck for AnMBR because it diminishes flux and necessitates frequent replacement of membranes. In this study, we assessed the feasibility of combining bacteriophages and UV-C irradiation to provide a chemical-free approach to remove biofoulants on the membrane. The combination of bacteriophage and UV-C resulted in better log cells removal and twice higher extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) concentration reduction in mature biofoulants compared to UV-C. A reduction in the relative abundance of Acinetobacter spp. and selected gram-positive bacteria associated with the membrane biofilm was also achieved by the new cleaning approach. Microscopic analysis further revealed the formation of cavities in the biofilm due to bacteriophages and UV-C irradiation, which would be beneficial to maintain water flux through the membrane. When the combined treatment was further compared with the common chemical cleaning procedure, a similar reduction on the cell numbers was observed (1.4 log). However, combined treatment was less effective in removing EPS compared with chemical cleaning. These results suggest that the combination of UV-C and bacteriophage have an additive effect in biofouling reduction, representing a potential chemical-free method to remove reversible biofoulants on membrane fitted in an anaerobic membrane bioreactor.