Life cycle assessment comparison of activated sludge, trickling filter, and high-rate anaerobic-aerobic digestion (HRAAD)

Water Sci Technol. 2016;73(10):2353-60. doi: 10.2166/wst.2016.087.


This paper conducts a comparative assessment of the environmental impacts of three methods of treating primary clarifier effluent in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) through life cycle assessment methodology. The three technologies, activated sludge (AS), high rate anaerobic-aerobic digestion (HRAAD), and trickling filter (TF), were assessed for treatment of wastewater possessing average values of biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids of 90 mg L(-1) and 70 mg L(-1), respectively. The operational requirements to process the municipal wastewater to effluent that meets USEPA regulations have been calculated. The data for the AS system were collected from the East Honolulu WWTP (Hawaii, USA) while data for the HRAAD system were collected from a demonstration-scale system at the same plant. The data for the TF system were estimated from published literature. Two different assessment methods have been used in this study: IMPACT 2002+ and TRACI 2. The results show that TF had the smallest environmental impacts and that AS had the largest, while HRAAD was in between the two but with much reduced impacts compared with AS. Additionally, the study shows that lower sludge production is the greatest advantage of HRAAD for reducing environmental impacts compared with AS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Bioreactors*
  • Filtration / methods*
  • Sewage / chemistry*
  • Wastewater / chemistry*


  • Sewage
  • Waste Water