OLAND is feasible to treat sewage-like nitrogen concentrations at low hydraulic residence times
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Energy-positive sewage treatment can, in principle, be obtained by maximizing energy recovery from concentrated organics and by minimizing energy consumption for concentration and residual nitrogen removal in the main stream. To test the feasibility of the latter, sewage-like nitrogen influent concentrations were treated with oxygen-limited autotrophic nitrification/denitrification (OLAND) in a lab-scale rotating biological contactor at 25°C. At influent ammonium concentrations of 66 and 29 mg N L−1 and a volumetric loading rate of 840 mg N L−1 day−1 yielding hydraulic residence times (HRT) of 2.0 and 1.0 h, respectively, relatively high nitrogen removal rates of 444 and 383 mg N L−1 day−1 were obtained, respectively. At low nitrogen levels, adapted nitritation and anammox communities were established. The decrease in nitrogen removal was due to decreased anammox and increased nitratation, with Nitrospira representing 6% of the biofilm. The latter likely occurred given the absence of dissolved oxygen (DO) control, since decreasing the DO concentration from 1.4 to 1.2 mg O2 L−1 decreased nitratation by 35% and increased anammox by 32%. Provided a sufficient suppression of nitratation, this study showed the feasibility of OLAND to treat low nitrogen levels at low HRT, a prerequisite to energy-positive sewage treatment.