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Simultaneous Biological Nutrient Removal: Evaluation of Autotrophic Denitrification, Heterotrophic Nitrification, and Biological Phosphorus Removal in Full-Scale Systems

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Simultaneous biological nutrient removal (SBNR) is the biological removal of nitrogen and phosphorus in excess of that required for biomass synthesis in a biological wastewater treatment system without defined anaerobic or anoxic zones. Evidence is growing that significant SBNR can occur in many systems, including the aerobic zone of systems already configured for biological nutrient removal. Although SBNR systems offer several potential advantages, they cannot be fully realized until the mechanisms responsible for SBNR are better understood. Consequently, a research program was initiated with the basic hypothesis that three mechanisms might be responsible for SBNR: the reactor macroenvironment, the floc microenvironment, and novel microorganisms.

Previously, the nutrient removal capabilities of seven full-scale, staged, closed-loop bioreactors known as Orbal oxidation ditches were evaluated. Chemical analysis and microbiological observations suggested that SBNR occurred in these systems. Three of these plants were further examined in this research to evaluate the importance of novel microorganisms, especially for nitrogen removal. A screening tool was developed to determine the relative significance of the activities of microorganisms capable of autotrophic denitrification and heterotrophic nitrification-aerobic denitrification in biological nutrient removal systems. The results indicated that novel microorganisms were not substantial contributors to SBNR in the plants studied. Phosphorus metabolism (anaerobic release, aerobic uptake) was also tested in one of the plants. Activity within the mixed liquor that was consistent with current theories for phosphorus-accumulating organisms (PAOs) was observed. Along with other observations, this suggests the presence of PAOs in the facilities studied.
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Keywords: AUTOTROPHIC PROCESS; DENITRIFICATION; HETEROTROPHIC PROCESS; NITRIFICATION; NITROGEN REMOVAL; NUTRIENT REMOVAL; PHOSPHORUS REMOVAL; SIMULTANEOUS TREATMENT

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-03-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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