Partial nitritation and o-cresol removal with aerobic granular biomass in a continuous airlift reactor

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Several chemical industries produce wastewaters containing both, ammonium and phenolic compounds. As an alternative to treat this kind of complex industrial wastewaters, this study presents the simultaneous partial nitritation and o-cresol biodegradation in a continuous airlift reactor using aerobic granular biomass. An aerobic granular sludge was developed in the airlift reactor for treating a high-strength ammonium wastewater containing 950±25mg N-NH4+ L-1. Then, the airlift reactor was bioaugmented with a p-nitrophenol-degrading activated sludge and o-cresol was added progressively to the ammonium feed to achieve 100mgL-1. The results showed that stable partial nitritation and full biodegradation of o-cresol were simultaneously maintained obtaining a suitable effluent for a subsequent anammox reactor. Moreover, two o-cresol shock-load events with concentrations of 300 and 1000mgL-1 were applied to assess the capabilities of the system. Despite these shock load events, the partial nitritation process was kept stable and o-cresol was totally biodegraded. Fluorescence in situ hybridization technique was used to identify the heterotrophic bacteria related to o-cresol biodegradation and the ammonia oxidising bacteria along the granules. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-362
JournalWater Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Aerobic granules
  • Industrial wastewater
  • Nitritation
  • Phenolic compounds


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