Low Temperature Partial Nitritation/Anammox in a Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor Treating Low Strength Wastewater

Municipal wastewater collected in areas with moderate climate is subjected to a gradual temperature decrease from around 20 °C in summer to about 10 °C in winter. A lab-scale moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) with carrier material (K3 from AnoxKaldnes) was used to test the tolerance of the overall partial nitritation/anammox process to this temperature gradient. A synthetic influent, containing only ammonium and no organic carbon was used to minimize denitrification effects. After stable reactor operation at 20 °C, the temperature was slowly reduced by 2 °C per month and afterward held constant at 10 °C. Along the temperature decrease, the ammonium conversion dropped from an average of 40 gN m–3 d–1 (0.2 gN kgTSS h–1) at 20 °C to about 15 gN m–3 d–1 (0.07 gN kgTSS h–1) at 10 °C, while the effluent concentration was kept <8 mgNH4‑N l–1 during the whole operation. This also resulted in doubling of the hydraulic retention time over the temperature ramp. The MBBR with its biofilm on 10 mm thick carriers proved to sufficiently sustain enough biomass to allow anammox activity even at 10 °C. Even though there was a minor nitrite-build up when the temperature dropped below 12.5 °C, reactor performance recovered as the temperature decrease continued. Microbial community analysis by 16S rRNA amplicon analysis revealed a relatively stable community composition over the entire experimental period.