Partial nitrification—operational parameters and microorganisms involved

Review Paper


Nitrite is a common intermediate in at least three different oxidative or reductive biochemical pathways that occur in nature (nitrification, denitrification and dissimilatory or assimilatory nitrate reduction). Nitrite accumulation or partial nitrification has been reported in literature for decades. In engineered systems, partial nitrification is of interest as it offers cost savings in aeration as well as in the form of lesser need for addition of organic carbon as compared to the conventional denitrification. A broad range of operating parameters and factors has been reviewed in this paper which are essential for achieving partial nitrification. Of these, pH, dissolved oxygen (DO), temperature, free ammonia (FA) and nitrous acid concentrations, inhibitory compounds are important factors in achieving partial nitrification.

Two groups of bacteria, namely ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria (NOB) are involved in nitrification. Chemolitho-autotrophic AOB are responsible for the rate-limiting step of nitrification in a wide variety of environments, making them important in the global cycling of nitrogen. Characterization and identification of the bacterial populations in an engineered system which have been considered to be a “black box”, has been made possible by using non-cultivation based techniques such as fluorescent in situ hybridization technique (FISH), polymerase chain reaction (PCR), denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), Sequencing and other techniques involving quantitative chemical analyses of specific biomarkers including quinones. Accordingly, this paper also attempts to give examples of how various molecular techniques can be used for characterizing various microorganisms involved in biological nitrogen removal.


Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria DO Fluorescence in situ hybridization Operating parameters Partial nitrification PCR-DGGE pH Temperature 



Anaerobic ammonium oxidation


Ammonia Monooxygenase


Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria


Complementary deoxyribonucleic acid




Chlorite ion


Chlorate ion


Chemical oxygen demand






Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis


Deoxyribonucleic acid


Dissolved oxygen


Environmental Protection Agency


Free ammonia




Fluorescence in situ hybridization


Free nitrous acid


Hydroxylamine oxidoreductase


Nitrous acid


Hydraulic residence time


Mean cell residence time




Nitrogen gas


Sodium chloride


Sodium hydroxide




Ammonium ion


Hydroxyl amine


Nitric oxide


Nitrous oxide


Nitrite ion


Nitrate ion


Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria


Nitrogenous oxygen demand


Nitrite oxidoreductase




Polymerase chain reaction




Ribonucleic acid


Ribosomal ribonucleic acid


Reverse transcriptase


Single reactor high activity ammonia removal over nitrite


Submerged membrane bioreactor


Sludge residence time


Total ammoniacal nitrogen


Total organic carbon


Volatile attached solids


Wastewater treatment plant


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Engineering and ManagementAsian Institute of TechnologyKlong LuangThailand

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