Simultaneous autotrophic denitrification and nitrification in a low-oxygen reaction environment

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The occurrence of autotrophic denitrification and nitrification activities by ammonia-oxidising bacteria and nitrite-oxidising bacteria is studied in a bioreactor system operable at low-dissolved oxygen (DO) and at variable oxygen influx rates. At a loading of 3.6 mg NH4+–N/h into the bioreactor, simultaneous autotrophic denitrification and nitrification contributed to NH4+–N removal over oxygen influxes of 2–14 mg O2/h and DO <0.5 mg/L. The maximum autotrophic denitrification (or total-N removal) rates were achieved in a narrow oxygen influx band of 3–5 mg O2/h, where it accounted for up to 36% of NH4+–N removal. At oxygen influx >16 mg O2/h and DO >2 mg/L, autotrophic denitrification ceases and roughly 90% of feed NH4+–N is oxidised to NOX–N. The stability of total effluent chemical oxygen demand (COD) over the range of oxygen influxes tested confirms the absence of heterotrophic denitrification in the bioreactor. The long solids residence time of the stable biomass zone (21 days) led to production of effluent COD as a result of cell decay, and thus effluent COD was used to calculate more accurately the mean cell residence time.

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