The TOD method is based on quantitative measurement of the oxygen used to burn the impurities in a liquid sample. Thus, it is a direct measure of the oxygen demand of the sample. Measurement is by continuous analysis of the oxygen concentration in the combustion gas effluent (see Figure 7.8.15).

The TOD analyzer converts oxidizable components in a liquid sample in its combustion tube into stable oxides by a reaction that disturbs oxygen equilibrium in the carrier gas stream. An oxygen detector detects momentary depletion in the oxygen concentration in the carrier gas and records it as a negative oxygen peak on a potentiometric recorder. The analyzer obtains sample TOD by compar-

FIG. 7.8.14 COD detection employing combustion in a carbon dioxide carrier and an NDIR sensor.
FIG. 7.8.15 Basic components of a TOD analyzer.

ing recorded peak heights to peak heights of standard TOD calibration solutions, e.g., potassium acid phthalate (KHP).

Prepurified nitrogen from a cylinder passes through a fixed length of oxygen permeable tube into the combustion chamber, gas scrubber, and oxygen detector. The environmental engineer can vary the baseline oxygen concentration, determined as the nitrogen passes through the temperature-controlled permeation tube, to accommodate different TOD ranges by changing the nitrogen flow rate.

The combustion chamber is a length of Vicor tubing or quartz tube containing a platinum catalyst mounted in an electric furnace and held at a temperature of 900°C (1652°F). The aqueous sample is injected into this chamber and the combustible components are oxidized.


Many regulatory agencies recognize only the BOD or COD measurements of the pollution load as the basis for pollution control. They are concerned with the pollution load on the receiving water, which is related to lowering the DO due to bacterial activity. Thus, if environmental engineers use other methods to satisfy the legal requirements of pollution load in effluents or measure BOD removal, they need an established correlation between the other methods and BOD or COD (preferably BOD).

A correlation of the various methods begins with the assumption that the BOD is the standard reference method. The salient features of this method are (1) a property measurement of the sample, i.e., the amount of oxygen required for bacterial oxidation of the bacterial food in the water, the BOD; (2) the dependence of oxygen demand on the nature of the food as well as on its quantity; and (3) the dependence of oxygen demand on the nature and amount of the bacteria.

The variation in OD due to variation in the amount (lb/gal) of food in the wastewater is expected; variation in OD when the amount of food is constant but changes occur in BOD requirements is difficult to predict. The same observations apply to the bacterial seed. Thus, variation in OD due to variation in the number or activity of bacteria, or changes in the nature of bacterial food leads to systematic or bias errors in BOD measurement that cannot be predicted or corrected for.

Therefore, the standard reference method is inherently variable and subject to analytical error. Researchers in an interlaboratory comparative study employing a synthetic waste found standard deviations around the mean of ±20% for BOD and ±10% for COD.

Another extensive study (Ford, Eller, and Gloyna 1971) made the following conclusions:

1. A reliable statistical correlation between wastewater

BOD and COD and the corresponding TOC or TOD

can frequently be achieved, particularly when organic strength is high and diversity in dissolved organic constituents is low.

2. The relationship is best described by a least squares regression with the degree of fit expressed by the correlation coefficient—this relationship applies to the characterization of individual chemical-processing and oil-refining wastewaters, not to all types of samples across the board.

3. The observed correspondence COD-TOD was better than COD-BOD for the wastewater mentioned (generally, correlating BOD with TOD was difficult, particularly when the wastewater contained low concentrations of complex organic materials).

4. The BOD-COD or BOD-TOC ratios of untreated wastewater indicate the biological treatment possible with wastewater. As these ratios increase, higher organic removal treatment efficiencies occur by biological methods.

Several papers indicate high correlation between BOD and other methods. This correlation is achieved when the nature of the pollutant is constant and only its amount changes. For complex and varying mixtures, obtaining good correlations is difficult.

An interesting example is given in the work of Nelson, Lysyj, and Nagano (1970), who discuss a pyrolytic method combined with flame ionization detection (FID). Values from the new method agreed with BOD values within ±15% for BOD values greater than 100 ppm on raw sewage and primary effluent. However, they found discrepancies of several hundred percent when the BOD was 20 ppm or less. These poor results can be attributed to a marked variation in biodegradability of carbonaceous products in the secondary effluent compared with the products before treatment as well as to the small amount of total material left.

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