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8.3: Mean Cell Residence Time (MCRT)

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    As we just learned with the F/M ratio, bacteria and microorganisms are essential to a properly functioning wastewater treatment plant. Another operational control parameter is the mean cell residence time (MCRT). This estimates how long a single bacteria or microorganism stays in the treatment process. The treatment process takes a certain amount of time to effectively remove the organic material and reduce the high amounts of ammonia. If the MCRT is to low then treatment will be insufficient. If the MCRT is too high then there is excess MLSS in the system which adds to the cost of operation.

    The equation to find out the MCRT is based on how much MLSS is in the system and how much MLSS is leaving the system through wasting. There are other equations and terms very similar to MCRT such as the Solids Retention Time (SRT). Some textbooks include the pounds of solids available in the secondary clarifiers as well as the final effluent suspended solids that are leaving the system.

    For this introductory class we will use the following equation:

    MCRT = Lbs under aeration/Lbs per day wasted

    The pounds under aeration is exactly the same as in determining the “M” in the F/M ratio. To determine the pounds wasted we need to know the flow rate of the waste activated sludge (WAS) and the concentration. Most treatment plants waste from the return activated sludge (RAS). The RAS is the microorganisms that have been settled out in a secondary clarifier. Therefore, the concentration of RAS is typically higher than MLSS.

    The MCRT will depend on the type of wastewater treatment system. Extended air plants will generally have MCRTs greater than 30 days. Conventional activated sludge plants generally have MCRTs between 5 to 10 days. Biological nutrient removal plants typically operate with a MCRT between 12 and 20 days, and high rate oxygen plants between 1 and 3 days. However, it is important to note that there are plenty of case studies showing plants operating outside these ranges while still achieving optimal treatment. Each plant is different and will develop their own optimal operating range.

    Exercise 8.3

    1. A wastewater treatment plant has a total of 35,000 lbs of MLSS and has 2,900 lbs/day leaving the system. What is the MCRT in days?

    Influent flow = 10.5 MGD

    Primary Effluent BOD = 285 mg/L

    Aeration Volume = 5 MG

    MLSS = 2,280 mg/L

    WAS Q = 115 gpm

    WAS Conc. = 8,110 mg/L

    1. An aeration tank has a volume of 375,000 gallons. The MLSS test results show there is 2,860 mg/L in the aeration tank. If a total of 2,100 lbs/day are wasted from the system, what is the MCRT of the facility?

    8.3: Mean Cell Residence Time (MCRT) is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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