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Water Res. 2012 May 1;46(7):2187-93. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2012.01.037. Epub 2012 Feb 3.

Autotrophic nitrogen removal from low strength waste water at low temperature.

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Sub-department of Environmental Technology, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 17, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Direct anaerobic treatment of municipal waste waters allows for energy recovery in the form of biogas. A further decrease in the energy requirement for waste water treatment can be achieved by removing the ammonium in the anaerobic effluent with an autotrophic process, such as anammox. Until now, anammox has mainly been used for treating warm (>30 °C) and concentrated (>500 mg N/L) waste streams. Application in the water line of municipal waste water treatment poses the challenges of a lower nitrogen concentration (<100 mg N/L) and a lower temperature (≤ 20 °C). Good biomass retention and a short HRT are required to achieve a sufficiently high nitrogen loading rate. For this purpose a 4.5 L gaslift reactor was inoculated with a small amount of anammox granules and operated for 253 days at 20 °C. The synthetic influent contained (69 ± 5) mg (NH(4)(+) + NO(2)(-))/L and 20 vol.% of anaerobically stabilised effluent. Results showed a clear increase in nitrogen loading rate (NLR) up to 0.31 g (NH(4) + NO(2))-N/(L × d) at a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 5.3 h. A low effluent concentration of 0.03-0.17 mg (NH(4)(+)+NO(2)(-))-N/L could be achieved. Anammox biomass was retained as granules and as a biofilm on the reactor walls, which contributed 54 and 46%, respectively, towards total activity. The biomass was further characterised by an estimated net growth rate of 0.040 d(-1) and an apparent activation energy of 72 kJ/mol. The results presented in this paper showed that anammox bacteria can be applied for autotrophic nitrogen removal from the water line at a municipal waste water treatment plant. Combining direct anaerobic treatment with autotrophic nitrogen removal opens opportunities for energy-efficient treatment of municipal waste waters.

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