Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015MT293B

Nitrifying wastewater biofilms and the influence of emerging contaminants

Institute: Montana
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $15,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $51,418

Principal Investigators: Ellen Lauchnor, Ellen Lauchnor

Abstract: Advanced and highly effective wastewater treatment is becoming increasingly important in the arid Western U.S. due to limiting water resources and the need for wastewater reuse. The removal of nutrients such as nitrogen from wastewater is becoming essential to maintain pristine water quality for downstream use. Wastewater reclamation facilities are thus required to adhere to strict discharge limits for nitrogen set by state and federal regulatory agencies. To achieve nitrogen removal, the biological treatment processes in wastewater must maintain the specific bacteria that participate in nitrification and denitrification. The organisms that perform nitrification tend to be very sensitive to inhibition or toxicity, which can wash these bacteria out of the treatment plant or prevent them from promoting nitrogen removal in the wastewater. Organic contaminants such as aromatic hydrocarbons have a severe detrimental impact on the nitrifying bacteria and these contaminants are increasingly present in both municipal and industrial wastewaters. Some household products, industrial refining wastes and pharmaceuticals contain harmful aromatic contaminants such as triclosan, phenols and many antibiotics. The result of these contaminants in wastewaters can be the loss of nitrification and reduction in wastewater effluent quality.