Nitrification with high nitrite accumulation for the treatment of wastewater with high ammonia concentration

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The objective of this paper was to determine the best conditions for partial nitrification with nitrite accumulation of simulated industrial wastewater with high ammonia concentration, lowering the total oxygen needed in the nitrification step, which may mean great saving in aeration. Dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration and pH were selected as operational parameters to study the possibility of nitrite accumulation not affecting overall ammonia removal. A 2.5L activated sludge reactor was operated in nitrification mode, feeding a synthetic wastewater simulating an industrial wastewater with high ammonia concentration. During the start-up a pH of 7.85 and a DO of 5.5mg/L were used. The reactor was operated until stable operation was achieved at final nitrogen loading rate (NLR) of 3.3kgN- NH4+/m3d with an influent ammonia concentration of 610mg N-NH4+/L. The influence of pH was studied in continuous operation in the range of 6.15-9.05, changing the reactor pH in steps until ammonia accumulation (complete nitrification inhibition) took place. The influence of DO was studied in the same mode, changing the DO in steps from 5.5 to 0.5mg/L. The pH was not a useful operational parameter in order to accumulate nitrite, because in the range of pH 6.45-8.95 complete nitrification to nitrate occurs. At pH lower than 6.45 and higher than 8.95 complete inhibition of nitrification takes place. Setting DO concentration in the reactor at 0.7mg/L, it was possible to accumulate more than 65% of the loaded ammonia nitrogen as nitrite with a 98% ammonia conversion. Below 0.5mg/L of DO ammonia was accumulated and over a DO of 1.7mg/L complete nitrification to nitrate was achieved. In conclusion, it is possible under the conditions of this study, to treat high ammonia synthetic wastewater achieving an accumulation of at least 65% of the loaded nitrogen as nitrite, operating at a DO around 0.7mg/L. This represents a reduction close to 20% in the oxygen necessary, and therefore a considerable saving in aeration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1371-1377
Number of pages7
JournalWater Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • Activated sludge
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Nitrification
  • Nitrite accumulation
  • pH


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