Literature Review of Nitrogen Reduction Technologies for

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Florida Onsite Sewage Nitrogen Reduction Strategies Study
Task A.2 Literature Review of Nitrogen Reduction Technologies for Onsite Sewage Treatment Systems Final Report
August 2009
In association with
OTIS ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANTS, LLC

Florida Onsite Sewage Nitrogen Reduction Strategies Study
TASK A.2 FINAL REPORT
Literature Review of Nitrogen Reduction Technologies for Onsite Sewage Treatment Systems
Prepared for: Florida Department of Health Division of Environmental Health Bureau of Onsite Sewage Programs 4042 Bald Cypress Way Bin #A-08 Tallahassee, FL 32399-1713
FDOH Contract CORCL August 2009
Prepared by:
In Association With:
Otis Environmental Consultants, LLC

Table of Contents

Section 1.0 Study Background ................................................................................. 1-1

Section 2.0 Nitrogen in the Environment ................................................................... 2-1

2.1 Nitrogen Fixation............................................................. 2-2 2.2 Nitrogen Uptake .............................................................. 2-3 2.3 Nitrogen Mineralization (Ammonification) ....................... 2-3 2.4 Nitrification ...................................................................... 2-3 2.5 Denitrification .................................................................. 2-4

Section 3.0 Nitrogen in Wastewater .......................................................................... 3-1

Section 4.0 Wastewater Nitrogen Reduction Technologies.......................................4-1

4.1 Biological Nitrification / Denitrification Processes ........... 4-3

4.1.1
4.1.2 4.1.3
4.1.4

Mixed Biomass with Alternating Aerobic /......... 4-5 Anoxic Environments (simultaneous) Mixed Biomass Recycling Systems .................. 4-5 Two-stage External Electron............................. 4-6 Donor Denitrification Anaerobic Ammonium Oxidation ...................... 4-6

4.2 Physical / Chemical Nitrogen Removal Processes ......... 4-6 4.3 Source Separation .......................................................... 4-8 4.4 Natural Systems.............................................................. 4-8 4.5 Passive Nitrogen Removal.............................................. 4-9

Section 5.0 Review of Onsite Nitrogen Reducing Technologies and Practices.........5-1

5.1 Source Separation .......................................................... 5-1

5.1.1 Urine Separation and Recovery........................ 5-5

5.1.1.1 5.1.1.2

Urine Separation ............................. 5-5 Urine Treatment .............................. 5-7

FLORIDA ONSITE SEWAGE NITROGEN REDUCTION STRATEGIES STUDY LITERATURE REVIEW OF NITROGEN REDUCTION TECHNOLOGIES FOR OSTDS

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Table of Contents

August 2009

5.1.1.3 5.1.1.4

Direct Nitrification ............................ 5-7 Precipitation .................................... 5-8

5.1.2 Greywater Collection and Reuse ...................... 5-9

5.1.2.1 Greywater Treatment .................... 5-10

5.1.3 Black Water Separation and Treatment.......... 5-11

5.2 Primary Treatment (Septic Tank).................................. 5-12 5.3 Biological Nitrification / Denitrification Processes ......... 5-12

5.3.1 Mixed Biomass Nitrification / Denitrification .... 5-15

5.3.1.1
5.3.1.2 5.3.1.3

Suspended Growth ....................... 5-15 (Activated Sludge) Reactors Media Filters.................................. 5-16 Integrated Fixed-Film Activated .... 5-23 Sludge (IFAS)

5.3.2

Segregated Biomass (Two Stage) .................. 5-23 Denitrification

5.3.2.1 5.3.2.2 5.3.2.3

Anoxic Packed Bed Reactors........ 5-24 Heterotrophic Denitrification .......... 5-26 Autotrophic Denitrification ............. 5-27

5.4 Physical / Chemical Nitrogen Reduction Processes ..... 5-29

5.4.1 Membrane Processes ..................................... 5-29

5.5 Natural Systems............................................................ 5-30

5.5.1 5.5.2 5.5.3

Soil Infiltration ................................................. 5-30 Constructed Wetlands .................................... 5-38 Evapotranspiration and Vegetative Uptake .... 5-38

5.6 Modifications to Conventional Onsite............................ 5-39 Treatment Systems

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FLORIDA ONSITE SEWAGE NITROGEN REDUCTION STRATEGIES STUDY LITERATURE REVIEW OF NITROGEN REDUCTION TECHNOLOGIES FOR OSTDS

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Table of Contents

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Section 6.0 OSTDS Nitrogen Reduction Strategies in Florida...................................6-1

6.1 Nitrogen Reducing Technologies .................................... 6-1 6.2 Categories of Technologies ............................................ 6-1 6.3 Process Applications for OSTDS .................................... 6-2 6.4 Process Performance Limitations ................................... 6-3 6.5 Emerging Technologies .................................................. 6-4 6.6 Nitrogen Reduction Implementation Strategies .............. 6-5

6.6.1 6.6.2 6.6.3

Establishing Nitrogen Reduction Standards ..... 6-5 Technology Selection ....................................... 6-6 Management and Enforcement ........................ 6-6

Section 7.0 References ............................................................................................. 7-1

Appendix A Glossary................................................................................................. A-1

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Table of Contents

August 2009

List of Tables

Table 3.1 Table 3.2

Nitrogen Species Concentrations in Raw Wastewater and .................... 3-2 Septic Tank Effluent by Source (Lowe, Rothe et al., 2006) Daily Septic Tank Effluent Flows by Source in Gallons/Day...................3-3 (Lowe, Rothe et al., 2006)

Table 5.1
Table 5.2
Table 5.3
Table 5.4 Table 5.5 Table 5.6
Table 5.7
Table 5.8 Table 5.9

Per Capita Volume and Constituent Loading in U.S. .............................. 5-3 Domestic Sewage Volume and Constituent Concentrations of Domestic ............................ 5-4 Sewage Wastestreams for a Four Person Household in the U.S. Biological Denitrification Processes and Typical Nitrogen .................... 5-14 Reduction Limits of OSTDS Summary of Media Filter Performance ................................................. 5-19 Summary of Saturated Anoxic Media Reactors .................................... 5-25 Total Nitrogen Removals below Soil Infiltration Zones ......................... 5-32 (Siegrist and Jenssen 1989) Estimates of TN Removal Based on Soil Texture Below a ................... 5-32 Traditional Household Wastewater Infiltration System (Long 1995) Total Nitrogen Removals Found in Various Studies of OWTS ............. 5-33 NRCS Drainage Classes, Descriptions and Expected Impacts ............ 5-34 on Denitrification

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Table of Contents

August 2009

List of Figures

Figure 2-1 Figure 2-2
Figure 2-3
Figure 2-4

The Nitrogen Cycle (Harrison, 2003) ...................................................... 2-1 Nitrogen Transformation in Biological Processes ................................... 2-2 (Eckenfelder and Argaman, 1991) Recent Increases in Anthropogenic N Fixation.......................................2-3 in Relation to “Natural” N Fixation (Harrison, 2003) Illustration of the Classic Heterotrophic Denitrification ........................... 2-5 and Anammox Denitrification (Butler and Richardson, 2005)

Figure 3-1

Cumulative Frequency of Total Nitrogen Concentrations in ................... 3-2 Septic Tank Effluent (Lowe, Rothe et al., 2006)

Figure 4-1 Figure 4-2
Figure 4-3 Figure 4-4 Figure 4-5 Figure 4-6
Figure 4-7 Figure 4-8 Figure 4-9

Treatment Options for Reducing Nitrogen in Household Sewage .......... 4-2 Onsite Treatment Technology Categories for Biological ........................ 4-3 Nitrification/Denitrification Processes Alternating Oxic / Anoxic Reactor Denitrification .................................... 4-5 Mixed Biomass Recycling Denitrification Process .................................. 4-5 External Electron Donor Denitrification Process ..................................... 4-6 Onsite Treatment Technology Categories for.........................................4-7 Physical/Chemical Processes Nitrogen Source Separation Categories ................................................. 4-8 Categories of Natural Systems for Nitrogen Reduction .......................... 4-9 Passive Two-Stage Denitrification System ........................................... 4-11

Figure 5-1 Figure 5-2
Figure 5-3
Figure 5-4

Domestic Wastestream Components ..................................................... 5-2 Two Swedish Urine Separating Toilets...................................................5-6 (EcoSan and Novaquatis) Relative Complexities of Nitrification / Denitrification............................5-15 Unit Operations Common Integrated Fixed Film Activated Sludge ................................ 5-23 (IFAS) Processes)

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FLORIDA ONSITE SEWAGE NITROGEN REDUCTION STRATEGIES STUDY LITERATURE REVIEW OF NITROGEN REDUCTION TECHNOLOGIES FOR OSTDS

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Section 1.0 Study Background
The quality of Florida’s surface and groundwater resources is increasingly being threatened by anthropogenic sources of pollutants. Nitrogen is one of these pollutants, which is both an environmental and drinking water concern. As little as one milligram per liter of nitrogen has been shown to lead to algae growth in Florida’s springs. In concentrations greater than 10 mg/L, it also is a drinking water concern.
Onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems (OSTDS) are one of the sources of nitrogen. These systems are used for household wastewater treatment where sewers are unavailable. The systems discharge partially treated wastewater into the soil where further treatment is achieved as the water percolates to groundwater. Approximately onethird of Florida’s population is served by OSTDS representing approximately 2.5 million systems (Briggs, Roeder et al. 2007). This number is expected to increase with rising population in the state. Consequently, OSTDS are one of the largest artificial groundwater recharge sources in Florida. However, few OSTDS are designed to remove nitrogen. Consequently, nitrogen can reach drinking water wells or surface water raising concerns over risks to human health and the environment.
In 2008, the Florida Department of Health was directed by the State Legislature to develop a comprehensive program to examine nitrogen reduction strategies for OSTDS in Florida. To comply with this directive, the Department initiated the Florida Onsite Sewage Nitrogen Reduction Strategies (FOSNRS) Study, to develop strategies for nitrogen reduction that complement the use of conventional OSTDS. The study includes four primary tasks:
Task A: Identification of available and emerging nitrogen reduction technologies suitable for use in OSTDS and to rank the systems for field testing priority;
Task B: Evaluation of performance of the selected systems under actual field conditions and associated costs of such OSTDS nitrogen reduction strategies in comparison to conventional and existing technologies;
Task C: Evaluation of naturally occurring nitrogen reduction in soil and groundwater below OSTDS; and

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FLORIDA ONSITE SEWAGE NITROGEN REDUCTION STRATEGIES STUDY LITERATURE REVIEW OF NITROGEN REDUCTION TECHNOLOGIES FOR OSTDS

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1.0 Study Background

August 2009

Task D: Development of a simple predictive model of nitrogen reduction in unsaturated soil and shallow water table under and downgradient of OSTDS.
This report presents the results from the first task of this study. It incorporates, updates and expands the scope of the literature review that was prepared as part of the “Florida Passive Nitrogen Removal Study (PNRS) Final Report” (Smith, Otis et al. 2008). This current update also reviews the broader range of nitrogen reduction technologies to include both passive and active systems.

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Section 2.0 Nitrogen in the Environment
Nitrogen is ubiquitous in the environment. It is an essential component of DNA, RNA, and proteins, which are the building blocks of life that all organisms require to live and grow. Approximately, 78 percent of the earth’s atmosphere is N2, but this is unavailable for use by organisms because of the strong triple bond between the two N atoms of the molecule, which makes it relatively inert. In order for plants and animals to be able to use nitrogen, N2 gas must first be converted to a more chemically available form such as ammonium (NH4+), nitrate (NO3-), or organic nitrogen (e.g. urea - (NH3)2CO). Because of the inert nature of N2 biologically available nitrogen is often in short supply in natural ecosystems, limiting plant growth and biomass accumulation.
Nitrogen takes many forms, both inorganic and organic. It also exists in many different oxidation states as well. It cycles between the atmosphere, biosphere and geosphere in different forms or species (Figure 2-1). Like other biogeochemical cycles such as carbon, the nitrogen cycle consists of various “storage pools” and processes by which the “pools” exchange nitrogen (arrows in Figure 2-1).

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Figure 2-1: The Nitrogen Cycle (Harrison, 2003) (Yellow arrows indicate human sources; red arrows indicate microbial transformations; blue
arrows indicate physical forces acting on nitrogen; green arrows indicate natural, nonmicrobial processes affecting the form and fate of nitrogen.)

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Nitrogen Reduction TechnologiesNitrogenOstdsSawyerSystems