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An Innovative Approach to Nitrate Removal: Making a Dent in the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia

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This paper explores the feasibility of using existing biological nutrient removal technology to achieve a 30 percent reduction in nitrate loading from the Lower Illinois River Basin (LIRB), which is a highly agricultural watershed that drains to the Mississippi River. This level of nitrate reduction is in line with the overall goal of the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Action Plan. Agriculture in the LIRB accounts for 88 percent of the overall land area, and application rates of nitrogen in synthetic fertilizer and manure in the basin are among the highest in the Nation. Nitrates would be treated by diverting a portion of stream flow in multiple small, sub-watersheds to side-stream treatment facilities, which utilize Submerged Anoxic Packed Bed Reactors with methanol addition. It was estimated that approximately 70 treatment facilities with a capacity of 100 mgd would be required to achieve the targeted reduction in nitrate loading in the LIRB. This treatment approach, which could also be used to remove nitrates from highly agricultural areas in other Corn Belt states, is a potential alternative to nitrogen removal by Nutrient Farming with constructed wetlands. The paper includes a hydrological evaluation to identify feasible the numbers and locations of treatment facilities, a detailed description of the treatment technology, and planning level capital and operating costs.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2006

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