It remains challenging to integrate nitritation and anammox in ecologically engineered treatment systems such as passive biofilters that are packed with natural materials and have low energy inputs. This study explored the factors influencing nitritation-anammox through parallel operation of two laboratory-scale biofilters packed with large and small marble chips respectively. Clean marble chips (mainly CaCO3) had an alkalinity dissolution rate of 130 mg CaCO3/kg marble d when water pH approached 6.5. Marble chips effectively increased water pH and provided sufficient alkalinity to support nitritation-anammox in the biofilters. Ammonium and total nitrogen removal decreased by 47 and 26%, respectively, when nutrients were not amended to influent. An influent nitrite concentration above 8.9 mg N/L could inhibit anammox in thin biofilms of biofilters. Nitritation-anammox was enhanced with a hydraulic retention time of 2 d relative to 7 d, likely due to enhanced air entrainment. Size of marble chips rarely made a significant difference in nitrogen removal, possibly due to sufficient surface area available for bacterial attachment and alkalinity dissolution.
Keywords: alkalinity, biofilter, biological nitrogen removal, ecologically engineered system