Development of a 2-sludge, 3-stage system for nitrogen and phosphorous removal from nutrient-rich wastewater using granular sludge and biofilms

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3207-3217
Journal / PublicationWater Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


A novel 2-sludge 3-stage process using a combination of granular sludge and biofilm was developed to achieve biological removal of nitrogen and phosphorus from nutrient-rich wastewater. The system consists of a granular sequencing batch reactor (SBR) working under alternating anaerobic/anoxic conditions supplemented with a short aerobic phase and an aerobic biofilm SBR. The wastewater is first fed to the granular SBR reactor, where easily biodegradable carbon sources are taken up primarily by polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs). The supernatant resulting from quick settling of the granular sludge is then fed to the biofilm SBR for nitrification, which produces oxidized nitrogen that is returned to the granular reactor for simultaneous denitrification and phosphorus removal. While maximizing the utilization of organic substrates and reducing operational costs, as do other 2-sludge processes previously reported in literature, the proposed system solves the bottleneck problem of traditional 2-sludge systems, namely high effluent ammonia concentration, due to its high-volume exchange ratios. An ammonia oxidation rate of 32 mg N/L h was achieved in the biofilm SBR, which produced nitrite as the final product. This nitrite stream was found to cause major inhibition on the anoxic P uptake and also to result in the accumulation of N2O. These problems were solved by feeding the nitrite-containing stream continuously to the granular reactor in the anoxic phase. With a nitrogen and phosphorus removal efficiency of 81% and 94%, respectively, the system produces an effluent that is suitable for land irrigation from a wastewater stream containing 270 mg N/L of total nitrogen and 40 mg P/L of total phosphorus. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Research Area(s)

  • 2-sludge system, Granular sludge, Nitrite/FNA, Nitrous oxide, Nutrient removal, Nutrient-rich wastewater

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