This study examined the effects of thermal pre-treatment and recuperative thickening on anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge on biogas production and removal of trace organic contaminants (TrOCs). Thermal pre-treatment and recuperative thickening resulted in approximately 15% increase in biogas production. However, the effects of thermal pretreatement and recuperative thickening on anaerobic digestion performance in respect to the removal of TrOCs were less obvious and varied widely depending on the molecular properties of each compound. Of the 40 TrOCs monitored in this study, 16 TrOCs were detected in all primary sludge samples. Removal from the aqueous phase was negligible for most of these 16 TrOCs. Caffeine and paracetamol were the only two TrOCs with a high removal from the aqueous phase. In comparison to the aqueous phase, TrOC removal from the solid phase was considerably higher. Through a mass balance calculation, it was shown that thermal pre-treatment or a combination of thermal pre-treatment and recuperative thickening could enhance the biodegradation of five persistent TrOCs, namely TCEP, verapamil, clozapine, triclosan, and triclocarban by 17-50%.
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