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Fate of Organic Nitrogen in Four Biological Nutrient Removal Wastewater Treatment Plants

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This study investigated the fate of nitrogen species, especially organic nitrogen, along the mainstream wastewater treatment processes in four biological nutrient removal (BNR) wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). It was found that the dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) fraction was as high as 47% of soluble nitrogen (SN) in the low-SN effluent plant, which limited the plant's capability to remove nitrogen to very low levels. A lower DON fraction was observed in high-SN effluent plants. Effluent DON concentrations from the four plants ranged from 0.5 to 2 mg N/L and did not vary significantly, even though there was a large variation in the influent organic nitrogen concentrations. Size fractionation of organic nitrogen by serial filtration through 1.2-, 0.45-, and 0.22-µm pore-sized membrane filters and the flocculation-and-filtration with zinc sulfate (ZnSO4) method was investigated. The maximum colloidal organic nitrogen (CON) fractions found were 68 and 45% in the primary effluent and final effluent, respectively. The experimental results showed that effluents after filtration through the 0.45-µm pore-sized filter contain significant colloidal fractions; hence, the constituents, including organic nitrogen, are not truly dissolved. A high CON fraction was observed in wastewater influents and was less significant in effluents. The flocculation and filtration method removed the colloidal fraction; therefore, the true DON fraction can be determined.

Keywords: biological nutrient removal; colloidal organic nitrogen; dissolved organic nitrogen; low effluent nitrogen

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2010

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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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