Overcoming Nitrite Oxidizing Bacteria Adaptation through Alternating Sludge Treatment with Free Nitrous Acid and Free Ammonia

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1937–1946
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number4
Online published14 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


Stable suppression of nitrite oxidizing bacteria (NOB) is one of the major bottlenecks for achieving mainstream nitrite shunt or partial nitritation/anammox (PN/A). It is increasingly experienced that NOB could develop resistance to suppressions over an extended time, leading to failure of nitrite shunt or PN/A. This study reports and demonstrates the first effective strategy to overcome NOB adaptation through alternating sludge treatment with free nitrous acid (FNA) and free ammonia (FA). During over 650 days of reactor operation, NOB adaptation to both FNA and FA was observed, but the adaptation was successfully overcome by deploying the alternate treatment strategy. Microbial community analysis showed Nitrospira and Nitrobacter, the key NOB populations in the reactor, have the ability to adapt to FNA and FA, respectively, but do not adapt to the alternation. Stable nitrite shunt with nitrite accumulation ratio over 95% and excellent nitrogen removal were maintained for the last 10 months with only one alternation applied. N2O emission increased initially as the attainment of nitrite shunt but exhibited a declining trend during the study. By using on-site-produced nitrite and ammonium, the proposed strategy is feasible and sustainable. This study brings the mainstream nitrite shunt and PN/A one step closer to wide applications. © 2019 American Chemical Society.

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