The influence of nitrite and free Ammonia on nitrogen removal rates in anoxic ammonium oxidation reactors

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Jaroszynski, Lukasz Wojciech
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This research focuses on anoxic ammonium oxidation (anammox). The anammox process for treating high ammonium and low organic carbon wastewater can reduce operational costs to a greater extent than the conventional autotrophic/heterotrophic treatment process can. The process has been widely researched because of its potential economic benefits. However, during long-term reactor operation, sudden reductions of nitrogen removal rates have been reported; maximum nitrogen removal rates in different reactor configurations could not approach values predicted based on mathematical modeling; and the crucial stability parameter, such as nitrite, did not have defined threshold concentration. It was hypothesised that free ammonia (FA) increase is the precursor of the instability of the anammox reactor. If it is true that nitrite up to about 200 mg N/L should stimulate nitrogen removal rate inside of the anammox reactor, when FA is kept below the inhibition threshold concentration. The research presented in the thesis argues that FA plays a larger role than has been previously considered in the instability of the anammox reactor. This study found FA inhibited nitrogen removal rates (NRR) at concentrations exceeding 2 mg N/L. In the pH range 7 to 8, the decrease in anammox activity was independent of pH and related only to the concentration of FA. Nitrite concentrations of up to 200 mg N/L did not negatively affect nitrogen removal rate. This study further found that low nitrite provided stable anammox reactor performance, but that high nitrite was not necessarily the cause for reactor destabilization. During the research high nitrogen removal rate was achieved when low FA was provided. During regular reactor operation at pH 6.5, the NRR at about 6.2 g N/Ld was archived. This value was never achieved before till this study was conducted. Conducted research showed controlling FA at low level is required to approach high rates in anammox reactors. Achieving high rates in anammox reactors allow significant reduction in reactor volume which saves resources. Further studies will be required to identify the FA effect on different microbial interactions, and that may provide more in-depth understanding of the nitrite and FA effect than observations based on NRR alone.
Anammox, inhibition, nitrite, free ammonia, nitrogen removal, MBBR, SBR