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Maximum Nitrogen Removal in the Step-Feed Activated Sludge Process

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This paper presents a mathematical framework that can be used to determine the flow distributions for a step-feed activated sludge process that result in maximum nitrogen removal. The model indicates that nitrogen removal efficiency in a step-feed activated sludge process is highly dependent on the ultimate biochemical oxygen demand (BOD L)-to-total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) ratio of the wastewater. For typical domestic wastewater, which has a relatively high BOD L-to-TKN ratio, the step-feed process will outperform the Modified Ludzack-Ettinger process for nitrogen removal, when the flow to each step is optimally distributed. Using plant-specific water quality data and operating conditions from a 1-year period, nitrogen removal performance for four step-feed activated sludge plants operated by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County (California) was calculated using the developed model. The calculated nitrogen removal efficiencies match well with the actual plant performance data. These results validate the model as a useful tool for predicting nitrogen removal in a step-feed activated sludge process. Other analyses revealed that improvements in nitrogen removal at existing facilities are achievable by adjusting the split of primary effluent flow to each anoxic zone several times during the day. The timing of the adjustments and the optimal flow splits can be determined from data on diurnal fluctuations in BOD L and TKN concentrations. An example is provided to illustrate the application of such an operating strategy and the potential enhancement of nitrogen removal.
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Keywords: activated sludge; denitrification; flow optimization; nitrification; nitrogen removal; step feed

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-04-01

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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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