Rapid, simple, and accurate method for measurement of VFA and carbonate alkalinity in anaerobic reactors

Ori Lahav*, Barak E. Morgan, Richard E. Loewenthal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


This paper presents a new simple, rapid, and accurate method suitable for on-site measurement of volatile fatty acids (VFA) and carbonate alkalinity in anaerobic reactors. This titrimetric method involves eight pH observations, and typically, the full procedure takes approximately 15 min. An important feature of the method is a built-in quality control mechanism allowing the user a rapid means of assessing the reliability of the experimental procedure. To evaluate the accuracy of the method, both laboratory-made waters and industrial UASB effluent were tested. High accuracy for both VFA and carbonate alkalinity measurements (error within 2% and 1%, respectively) plus good repetition (average standard deviation of 6.7% and 1.45%, respectively) was obtained. The method takes into account the effects of the phosphate, ammonium, and sulfide weak acid subsystems. Appraisal of the effect of an input error in these subsystems revealed that VFA measurement is fairly insensitive to phosphate and ammonium concentrations. It is, however, sensitive to H2S loss during titration where the sulfide concentration is higher than approximately 100 mg/L as S. With regard to the carbonate alkalinity measurement, error in concentration of either phosphate or sulfide or H2S loss might result in a significant error. Short guidelines for correct execution of the method are given in an appendix.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2736-2741
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes


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