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The inhibitory effects of reject water on nitrifying populations grown at different biofilm thickness

Journal article
Authors Maria Piculell
Carolina Suarez
Chunyan Li
Magnus Christensson
Frank Persson
Michael Wagner
Malte Hermansson
Karin Jönsson
Thomas Welander
Published in Water Research
Volume 104
Issue 1 Nov
Pages 292-302
ISSN 0043-1354
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Pages 292-302
Language en
Keywords Biofilm thickness, FISH-CLSM, MBBR, NOB inhibition, Nitritation-anammox, Optical coherence tomography
Subject categories Microbiology, Water Engineering, Water Treatment


Suppression of nitrite oxidizing bacteria (NOB) is of vital importance to achieve successful, energy efficient, mainstream anammox processes for wastewater treatment. In this study, biofilm carriers from a fully nitrifying MBBR system, fed with mainstream wastewater, were temporarily exposed to reject water from sludge dewatering, to evaluate this as a possible strategy to inhibit NOB and achieve nitrite production under realistic conditions. Two different carrier types were compared, in which biofilm thickness was maintained at approximately 400 and 50 mm, respectively, and reject treatment was tested at different exposure time and loading rates. Reject exposure almost always resulted in an increased nitrite production in the thinner biofilm, and overall, nitrifiers growing in the thin biofilm were more sensitive than those grown in the thicker biofilm. The effect from reject exposure remained in the systems for four days after returning to mainstream operation, with nitrite production gradually increasing for three days. Increased concentrations of free ammonia correlated with reject exposure and may be the cause of inhibition, although other factors cannot be excluded.

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