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Implication of Using Different Carbon Sources for Denitrification in Wastewater Treatments

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Application of external carbon sources for denitrification becomes necessary for wastewater treatment plants that have to meet very stringent effluent nitrogen limits (e.g., 3 to 5 mgTN/L). In this study, we evaluated and compared three carbon sources—MicroCTM (Environmental Operating Solutions, Bourne, Massachusetts), methanol, and acetate—in terms of their denitrification rates and kinetics, effect on overall nitrogen removal performance, and microbial community structure of carbon-specific denitrifying enrichments. Denitrification rates and kinetics were determined with both acclimated and non-acclimated biomass, obtained from laboratory-scale sequencing batch reactor systems or full-scale plants. The results demonstrate the feasibility of the use of MicroCTM for denitrification processes, with maximum denitrification rates (k dmax) of 6.4 mgN/gVSS·h and an observed yield of 0.36 mgVSS/mgCOD. Comparable maximum nitrate uptake rates were found with methanol, while acetate showed a maximum denitrification rate nearly twice as high as the others. The maximum growth rates measured at 20°C for MicroCTM and methanol were 3.7 and 1.2 day−1, respectively. The implications resulting from the differences in the denitrification rates and kinetics of different carbon sources on the full-scale nitrogen removal performance, under various configurations and operational conditions, were assessed using Biowin (EnviroSim Associates, Ltd., Flamborough, Ontario, Canada) simulations for both pre- and post-denitrification systems. Examination of microbial population structures using Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis (ARISA) throughout the study period showed dynamic temporal changes and distinct microbial community structures of different carbon-specific denitrifying cultures. The ability of a specific carbon-acclimated denitrifying population to instantly use other carbon source also was investigated, and the chemical-structure-associated behavior patterns observed suggested that the complex biochemical pathways/enzymes involved in the denitrification process depended on the carbon sources used.

Keywords: Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis; Biowin modeling; MicroCTM; and community structure; biological nutrient removal; carbon sources; denitrification; nitrogen removal

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2009

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  • 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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