Understanding the contribution of biofilm in an integrated fixed-film-activated sludge system (IFAS) designed for nitrogen removal

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The objective of this study is to improve knowledge on the integrated fixed-film-activated sludge (IFAS) system designed for nitrogen removal. Biofilm growth and its contribution to nitrification were monitored under various operating conditions in a semi-industrial pilot-scale plant. Nitrification rates were observed in biofilms developed on free-floating media and in activated sludge operated under a low sludge retention time (4 days) and at an ammonia loading rate of 45–70 gNH4-N/kgMLVSS/d. Operational conditions, i.e. oxygen concentration, redox potential, suspended solids concentration, ammonium and nitrates, were monitored continuously in the reactors. High removal efficiencies were observed for carbon and ammonium at high-loading rate. The contribution of biofilm to nitrification was determined as 40–70% of total NOx-N production under the operating conditions tested. Optimal conditions to optimize process compacity were determined. The tested configuration responds especially well to winter and summer nitrification conditions. These results help provide a deeper understanding of how autotrophic biomass evolves through environmental and operational conditions in IFAS systems.

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