Date: 22 Jan 2011

Nitrifying population dynamics in a redox stratified membrane biofilm reactor (RSMBR) for treating ammonium-rich wastewater

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Abstract

Nitrogen removal performance and nitrifying population dynamics were investigated in a redox stratified membrane biofilm reactor (RSMBR) under oxygen limited condition to treat ammonium-rich wastewater. When the NHt 4 + -N loading rate increased from 11.1±1.0 to 37:2 ± 3:2 gNHt 4 + -N·m−2·d−1, the nitrogen removal in the RSMBR system increased from 18.0±9.6 mgN·d−1 to 128.9±61.7 mgN·d−1. Shortcut nitrogen removal was achieved with nitrite accumulation of about 22:3 ± 5:3 mgNO 2 -N·L−1. Confocal micrographs showed the stratified distributions of nitrifiers and denitrifiers in the membrane aerated biofilms (MABs) at day 120, i.e., ammonia and nitrite oxidizing bacteria (AOB and NOB) were dominant in the region adjacent to the membrane, while heterotrophic bacteria propagated at the top of the biofilm. Real-time qPCR results showed that the abundance of amoA gene was two orders of magnitude higher than the abundance of nxrA gene in the MABs. However, the nxrA gene was always detected during the operation time, which indicates the difficulty of complete washout of NOB in MABs. The growth of heterotrophic bacteria compromised the dominance of nitrifiers in biofilm communities, but it enhanced the denitrification performance of the RSMBR system. Applying a high ammonia loading together with oxygen limitation was found to be an effective way to start nitrite accumulation in MABs, but other approaches were needed to sustain or improve the extent of nitritation in nitrogen conversion in MABs.