Rotating Biologycal Contactor (RBC)

There are three types of waste, namely liquid, solid and gaseous waste. Liquid waste contains organic and inorganic pollutants. where the most dominant in organic waste as much as 78% in the form of C, H, O namely the content of carbohydrates, proteins and fats which are food from microorganisms. From the waste treatment technology, there are 3 effluent processes, namely primary, secondary and tertiary. but in practice it does not have to be used entirely depending on the characteristics of the waste.

The primary processing can be done chemically by screaming and flocculation, physically by coagulation. but the results of the processing usually do not meet the quality standards of waste treatment because there are still pollutants that must be set aside, one way is by utilizing microorganisms, of course, which are in accordance with the living requirements of microorganisms, namely aerobic, which requires oxygen, usually RBC is used.

A rotating biological contactor or RBC is a biological fixed-film treatment process used in the secondary treatment of wastewater following primary treatment. The primary treatment process involves removal of grit, sand and coarse suspended material through a screening process, followed by settling of suspended solids. The RBC process allows the wastewater to come in contact with a biological film in order to remove pollutants in the wastewater before discharge of the treated wastewater to the environment, usually a body of water (river, lake or ocean). A rotating biological contactor is a type of secondary (biological) treatment process. It consists of a series of closely spaced, parallel discs mounted on a rotating shaft which is supported just above the surface of the wastewater. Microorganisms grow on the surface of the discs where biological degradation of the wastewater pollutants takes place.

Rotating biological contactors (RBCs) are capable of withstanding surges in organic load. To be successful, micro-organisms need both oxygen to live and food to grow. Oxygen is obtained from the atmosphere as the disks rotate. As the micro-organisms grow, they build up on the media until they are sloughed off due to shear forces provided by the rotating discs in the sewage. Effluent from the RBC is then passed through a clarifier where the sloughed biological solids in suspension settle as a sludge.

The rotating packs of disks (known as the media) are contained in a tank or trough and rotate at between 2 and 5 revolutions per minute. Commonly used plastics for the media are polyethylene, PVC and expanded polystyrene. The shaft is aligned with the flow of wastewater so that the discs rotate at right angles to the flow, with several packs usually combined to make up a treatment train. About 40% of the disc area is immersed in the wastewater.

Biological growth is attached to the surface of the disc and forms a slime layer. The discs contact the wastewater with the atmospheric air for oxidation as it rotates. The rotation helps to slough off excess solids. The disc system can be staged in series to obtain nearly any detention time or degree of removal required. Since the systems are staged, the culture of the later stages can be acclimated to the slowly degraded materials.

The discs consist of plastic sheets ranging from 2 to 4 m in diameter and are up to 10 mm thick. Several modules may be arranged in parallel and/or in series to meet the flow and treatment requirements. The discs are submerged in waste water to about 40% of their diameter. Approximately 95% of the surface area is thus alternately submerged in waste water and then exposed to the atmosphere above the liquid. Carbonaceous substrate is removed in the initial stage of RBC. Carbon conversion may be completed in the first stage of a series of modules, with nitrification being completed after the 5th stage. Most design of RBC systems will include a minimum of 4 or 5 modules in series to obtain nitrification of waste water. As the biofilm biomass changes from Carbon metabolizing to nitrifying, a visual colour change from grey/beige to brown can be seen which is illustrated by the adjacent photo.

Biofilms, which are biological growths that become attached to the discs, assimilate the organic materials (measured as BOD5) in the wastewater. Aeration is provided by the rotating action, which exposes the media to the air after contacting them with the wastewater, facilitating the degradation of the pollutants being removed. The degree of wastewater treatment is related to the amount of media surface area and the quality and volume of the inflowing wastewater.

RBC regularly achieve the following effluent parameters for treated waste water: BOD5: 20 mg/L, Suspended Solids: 30 mg/L and Ammonia N: 20 mg/L. They consume very low power and make little noise due to the slow rotation of the rotor (2-5 RPM). They are generally considered very robust and low maintenance systems. Better discharge effluent parameters can be achieved by adding a tertiary polishing filter after the RBC to lower BOD5, SS and Ammonia Nitrogen. An additional UV or Chlorination step can achieve effluent parameters that make the water suitable for irrigation or toilet flushing.

Secondary clarifiers following RBCs are identical in design to conventional humus tanks, as used downstream of trickling filters. Sludge is generally removed daily, or pumped automatically to the primary settlement tank for co-settlement. Regular sludge removal reduces the risk of anaerobic conditions from developing within the sludge, with subsequent sludge flotation due to the release of gases.

Advantages and Disadvantages of RBC

Some of the advantages of the wastewater treatment process with the RBC system include:

  • Tool operation and maintenance is easy.
  • For small capacity/package, compared to activated sludge process the energy consumption is lower.
  • Can be installed in several stages (multi stage), so it is resistant to fluctuations in processing load.
  • The nitrification reaction is easier to occur, so the ammonium removal efficiency is greater.
  • There is no bulking or foam as in the active mud process.

While some of the weaknesses of the wastewater treatment process with the RBC system include:

  • Controlling the number of micro-organisms is difficult.
  • Sensitive to temperature changes.
  • Sometimes the BOD concentration of treated water is still high.
  • Can cause the growth of hairy worms, as well as sometimes an unpleasant odor