Evaluation of biological treatment for the degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in a wastewater treatment plant



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Texas A&M University


Biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbon can be an effective treatment method applied to control oil pollution in both fresh water and marine environments. Hydrocarbon degraders, both indigenous and exogenous, are responsible for utilizing petroleum hydrocarbon as their substrate for growth and energy, thereby degrading them. Biodegradation of hydrocarbons is often enhanced by bioaugmentation and biostimulation depending on the contaminated environment and the competence of the hydrocarbon degraders present. An evaluation of the performance of the biological treatment of petroleum hydrocarbon by the hydrocarbon degrading microbes at the Brayton Fire School??s 4 million gallon per day (MGD) wastewater treatment plant was the main research objective. Samples were taken for two seasons, winter (Nov 03 ?? Jan 03) and summer (Jun 04 ?? Aug 04), from each of the four treatment units: the inlet tank, equalization tank, aeration tank and the outfall tank. The population of aliphatic hydrocarbon degraders were enumerated and nutrient availability in the system were used to evaluate the effectiveness of on-going bioaugmentation and biostimulation. Monitoring of general effluent parameters was conducted to evaluate the treatment plant??s removal efficiency and to determine if effluent discharge was in compliance with the TCEQ permit. The aeration tank is an activated sludge system with no recycling. Hydrocarbon degraders are supplied at a constant rate with additional nutrient supplement. There was a significant decrease in the population of microbes that was originally fed to the system and the quantity resident in the aeration tank. Nutrient levels in the aeration tank were insufficient for the concentration of hydrocarbon degraders, even after the application of dog food as a biostimulant. The use of dog food is not recommended as a nutrient supplement. Adding dog food increases the nitrogen and phosphorus concentration in the aeration tank but the amount of carbon being added with the dog food increases the total chemical oxygen demand (COD) and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD). An increase in the concentration of total COD and BOD further increases the nitrogen and phosphorus requirement in the system. The main objective of supplying adequate nutrients to the hydrocarbon degraders would never be achieved as there would be an additional demand of nutrients to degrade the added carbon source. This research study was conducted to identify the drawbacks in the treatment plant which needs further investigation to improve efficiency.