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Investigating Phosphorus Limitation in a Fixed Bed Filter with Phosphorus and Nitrogen Profile Measurements

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In 2000, the European Union adopted the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) (European Commission, 2000). The WFD focuses on increasingly stringent nutrient standards including ultra low nitrogen (< 2.2 mg N-total/L) and phosphorus concentrations (< 0.15 mg total phosphorus/L) in receiving surface waters and in relevant point sources like wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent. Expansion of WWTPs with advanced post-treatment processes, like effluent filtration, is widely proposed to meet possible future effluent discharge standards. When combining biological nitrate-nitrogen and chemical phosphorus removal in one filter, phosphorus limitation in the denitrifying process may occur.

This study investigated where in the filter bed and under which conditions phosphorus limitation occurs. Profile measurements for nitrate, nitrite, and orthophosphorus (PO4-P) combined with chemical oxygen demand (COD) and O2 were conducted. Results showed that the required PO4-P/NOx-N ratio is approximately 0.006 mg/mg after phosphorous precipitation and flocculation. Profile measurements have proven to be an applicable and useful tool. It showed how nitrate and orthophosphorus are removed through the filter bed based on the PO4-P/NOx-N ratio. When orthophosphorus is removed more rapidly and efficiently compared to nitrate, the PO4-P/NOx-N ratio decreases. When PO4-P/NOx-N ratio thresholds are approximately 0.006 mg/mg for a certain period of time and water temperatures varied significantly, orthophosphorus limitation may occur. Changing the filter-bed configuration or decreasing the coagulant dosage can prevent limitation of the denitrifying process because of a phosphorous shortage.

Keywords: 1-STEP filtration; advanced effluent treatment; dual media filtration; phosphorus limitation; profile measurements

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2012

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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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