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Long-term stability of partial nitritation-anammox for treatment of municipal wastewater in a moving bed biofilm reactor pilot system

Journal article
Authors David J.I. Gustavsson
Carolina Suarez
Britt-Marie Wilén
Malte Hermansson
Frank Persson
Published in Science of the Total Environment
Volume 714
ISSN 00489697
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Language en
Keywords Mainstream, MBBR, Microbial community analysis, Municipal wastewater treatment, Partial nitritation-anammox
Subject categories Microbiology, Water Engineering, Water Treatment


© 2019 Nitrogen removal from the mainstream of municipal wastewater with partial nitritation-anammox (PNA) would be highly beneficial with regard to the uses of energy and organic carbon. However, the challenges of process instability, low nitrogen removal rates (NRR) and unwanted aerobic nitrite oxidation need to be solved to reach large-scale implementation. Here, we have operated pilot-scale moving bed biofilm reactors (MBBRs) for mainstream treatment, together with sidestream treatment of sludge liquor from anaerobic digestors, for over 900 days to investigate process stability, reactor performance and microbial community structure at realistic conditions. The MBBR biofilm contained stable and high relative abundances of anammox bacteria (10–32%) consisting of two major Brocadia sp. populations, and several populations of aerobic ammonia-oxidising bacteria (AOB) within Nitrosomonas sp. (0.2–3.1%), as assessed by 16S rDNA amplicon sequencing. In addition, nitrite-oxidising bacteria (NOB) consisting of Nitrospira sp. (0.4–0.8%) and Nitrotoga sp. (up to 0.4%) were present. Nitrogen was removed at a peak rate of 0.66 g N m−2 d−1 (0.13 kg N m−3 d−1) with a nitrate production over ammonium consumption of 15% by the NOB, at operation with continuous aeration at 15 °C. However, during most periods with continuous aeration, the NRR was lower (≈ 0.45 g N m−2 d−1), with larger relative nitrate production (≈40%), presumably due to problems to maintain stable residual ammonium concentrations during wet-weather mainstream flows. Changing reactor operation to intermittent aeration decreased the NRR but did not help in suppressing the NOB. The study shows that with MBBRs, stable mainstream PNA can be attained at realistic NRR, but with need for post-treatment of nitrate, since effective NOB suppression was hard to achieve.

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