Fats and oils are the most common pollutants in wastewater, and are usually eliminated through physical processes in wastewater treatment plants, generating large amounts of fats and residual oils that are difficult to dispose of and handle. The degradation of fatty wastewater was studied in a real wastewater treatment plant and a laboratory scale treatment unit. The wastewater treatment plant, located in Chile, was designed for a population of 200,000 inhabitants. It includes an aerobic digester that receives fat and oils retained in a degreaser and treats the fats and oils together with biomass. The biodegradation of fats and oils was analyzed in both wastewater treatment systems. Key parameters were monitored such as the concentration of fats and oils in the influents and effluents, mass loading, and the efficiency of biodegradation. The mass loading range was similar in both wastewater treatment systems. In the experimental activated sludge plant, the biodegradation of fats and oils reached levels in the range of 64% to 75%. For the wastewater treatment plant with an aerobic digester, the levels of biodegradation of fats and oils ranged from 69% to 92%. Therefore, considering the efficiency of the elimination of fats and oils, the results indicated that physical treatment should be replaced with biological treatment so that the CO2
generated by the biodegradation will be incorporated into the carbon cycle and the mass of fats and oils in landfills will be reduced.
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