Impact of nitrate addition on biofilm properties and activities in rising main sewers

J. Mohanakrishnan, O. Gutierrez, K. R. Sharma, A. Guisasola, U. Werner, R. L. Meyer, J. Keller, Z. Yuan

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    Anaerobic sewer biofilm is a composite of many different microbial populations, including sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB), methanogens and heterotrophic bacteria. Nitrate addition to sewers in an attempt to control hydrogen sulfide concentrations affects the behaviour of these populations, which in turn impacts on wastewater characteristics. Experiments were carried out on a laboratory reactor system simulating a rising main to determine the impact of nitrate addition on the microbial activities of anaerobic sewer biofilm. Nitrate was added to the start of the rising main during sewage pump cycles at a concentration of 30 mg-N L -1 for over 5 months. While it reduced sulfide levels at the outlet of the system by 66%, nitrate was not toxic or inhibitory to SRB activity and did not affect the dominant SRB populations in the biofilm. Long-term nitrate addition in fact stimulated additional SRB activity in downstream biofilm. Nitrate addition also stimulated the activity of nitrate reducing, sulfide oxidizing bacteria that appeared to be primarily responsible for the prevention of sulfide build up in the wastewater in the presence of nitrate. A short adaptation period of three to four nitrate exposure events (approximately 10 h) was required to stimulate biological sulfide oxidation, beyond which no sulfide accumulation was observed under anoxic conditions. Nitrate addition effectively controlled methane concentrations in the wastewater. The nitrate uptake rate of the biofilm increased with repeated exposure to nitrate, which in turn increased the consumption of biodegradable COD in the wastewater. These results provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of nitrate addition on wastewater composition and sewer biofilm microbial activities, which will facilitate optimization of nitrate dosing for effective sulfide control in rising main sewers. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4225-4237
    JournalWater Research
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2009


    • Methane
    • Microsensors
    • Nitrate
    • Sewer
    • Sulfate reducing bacteria
    • Sulfide


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