A bench-scale assay was developed to obtain site-specific nitrification biokinetic information from biological rapid sand filters employed in groundwater treatment. The experimental set-up uses granular material subsampled from a full-scale filter, packed in a column, and operated with controlled and continuous hydraulic and ammonium loading. Flowrates and flow recirculation around the column are chosen to mimic full-scale hydrodynamic conditions, and minimize axial gradients. A reference ammonium loading rate is calculated based on the average loading experienced in the active zone of the full-scale filter. Effluent concentrations of ammonium are analyzed when the bench-scale column is subject to reference loading, from which removal rates are calculated. Subsequently, removal rates above the reference loading are measured by imposing short-term loading variations. A critical loading rate corresponding to the maximum removal rate can be inferred. The assay was successfully applied to characterize biokinetic behavior from a test rapid sand filter; removal rates at reference loading matched those observed from full-scale observations, while a maximum removal capacity of 6.9 g NH4+–N/m3 packed sand/h could easily be determined at 7.5 g NH4+–N/m3 packed sand/h. This assay, with conditions reflecting full-scale observations, and where the biological activity is subject to minimal physical disturbance, provides a simple and fast, yet powerful tool to gain insight in nitrification kinetics in rapid sand filters.
Water Research, 2013, Vol 47, Issue 16, p. 6380-6387