The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Characterization of activated sludge exocellular polymers using several cation-associated extraction methods

TitleCharacterization of activated sludge exocellular polymers using several cation-associated extraction methods
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsPark C, Novak JT
JournalWater Research
Start Page1679
Date Published04/2007
KeywordsActivated sludge floc, base extraction, cation exchange resin extraction, cations, extracellular polymeric substances, sludge digestion, sulfide extraction

Evaluation of prior research and preliminary investigations in our laboratory led to the development of an extraction strategy that can be used to target different cations in activated sludge floc and extract their associated extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). The methods we used were the cation exchange resin (CER) procedure, base extraction, and sulfide addition to extract EPS linked with divalent cations, Al, and Fe, respectively. A comparison of sludge cations before and after CER extraction revealed that most of Ca2+ and Mg2+ were removed while Fe and Al remained intact, suggesting that this method is highly selective for Ca2+ and Mg2+-bound EPS. The correlation between sludge Fe and sulfide-extracted EPS was indicative of selectivity of this method for Fe-bound EPS. The base extraction was less specific than the other methods but it was the method releasing the largest amount of Al into the extract, indicating that the method extracted Al-bound EPS. Concomitantly, the composition of extracted EPS and the amino acid composition differed for the three methods, indicating that EPS associated with different metals were not the same. The change in EPS following anaerobic and aerobic digestion was also characterized by the three extraction methods. CER-extracted EPS were reduced after aerobic digestion while they changed little by anaerobic digestion. On the other hand, anaerobic digestion was associated with the decrease in sulfide-extracted EPS. These results suggest that different types of cation-EPS binding mechanisms exist in activated sludge and that each cation-associated EPS fraction imparts unique digestion characteristics to activated sludge.