Preliminary study testing the effects of tea and coffee on sludge characteristics and N-butyryl-L-homoserine lactone in an MBR system

Membrane bioreactors (MBRs) are rapidly developing systems widely used for the treatment of municipal and industrial wastewater prior to their discharge into the environment. Membrane fouling is the most important challenge in MBRs, because it negatively affects membrane performance, resulting in low permeate flux, higher trans-membrane pressure and frequent membrane cleaning/replacement. In this study, the effect of tea and coffee on sludge characteristics, membrane fouling and the bacterial signaling molecule N-butyryl-L-homoserine lactone (C4-HSL) in a membrane bioreactor system were investigated. For this purpose, four different continuously operated membrane bioreactors, treating synthetic domestic wastewater and dairy wastewater were operated in parallel under the same conditions. The results indicated that the soluble microbial products (SMP) and the extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) in the reactors showed similar trends for both synthetic domestic and dairy wastewater, where protein levels were higher than carbohydrate levels. Other parameters such as floc size, zeta potential, hydrophobicity, sludge volume index and capillary suction time were also analyzed prior to and after the addition of coffee and tea. Analysis of the wastewater samples by GC-MS revealed that coffee and tea significantly enhance the extraction efficiency of C4-HSL. The results obtained in this study can serve as a good basis for further research.