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What Processes Occur in Biological Nutrient Removal Wastewater Treatment Plants?

The rising concentration of harmful nutrients in wastewater treatment plant discharge can cause cultural eutrophication in surface waters. One of the major concerns is the rising concentration of compounds like nitrogen and phosphorus. These harmful nutrients present problems for ecosystems and by causing summer algae bloom, fish kills, murky water, and depletion of desirable flora and fauna.

Conventional secondary wastewater treatment processes designed to meet specific standards cannot completely remove nitrogen and phosphorus to the extent needed to protect the water and ecosystems.


Therefore wastewater treatment plants are being required to implement processes that will reduce these harmful nutrients to safe levels because removing these harmful nutrients is needed to protect aquatic life and eliminate eutrophication in lakes, streams, and protect human health.


The good news is that microbes are beneficial in biodegrading carbonaceous, nitrogenous, and phosphoric compounds. They do this in nature continuously in both high and low-nutrient environments.


Biological nutrient removal processes can be chemical, by adding ferric or aluminum compounds, or biological, by adjusting conditions to promote removal. However, it is way more cost-effective to use biological nutrient removal processes to remove the nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater before reaching the surface or groundwater.


Biological nitrogen removal is a two-step aerobic process that uses bacteria to oxidize ammonia to nitrite and then nitrite to nitrate. Whereas biological phosphorus removal uses microorganisms to remove the phosphorus from wastewater.


There are numerous conditions and variables involved in biological nutrient removal, including nutrient rations, loading rates, wasting rates, dissolved oxygen, retention times, etc. Therefore biological nutrient removal requires constant monitoring, evaluating, and tweaking because living organisms are doing the work, and conditions for those organisms change daily.


To find out more information on bacteria nutrient removal and what monitoring services we provide, give us a call today!


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