Possible procedures to achieve biological phosphorus removal in a fixed film reactor are discussed and the feasibility of phosphorus removal process in a fixed film reactor under continous flow is demonstrated. The behaviour of an upflow aerated filter operating under continuous feed and alternate aerobic/anaerobic conditions is analyzed. The influence of the duration of anaerobic and aerobic contact periods and of organic substrate loadings on the phosphorus removal process is verified. During the anaerobic state, the longer the duration, or the higher the substrate load, the better the phosphorus release and consequently the higher the uptake in the aerobic phase. The excess of accumulated phosphorus in the aerobic phase over released phosphorus in the anaerobic phase approaches 33 %. For each mg of phosphorus released, 5 mg filtered COD are consumed.
Continuous phosphorus removal on two biofilters in series was performed by alternating aeration conditions, always introducing the influent to the anaerobic reactor.The tests carried out on laboratory scale showed that this system carrys out complete nitrification and removal of 80% of the phosphorus with a maximum hydraulic retention time of 5 hours. The hydraulic retention time and the residence time of the biomass in the reactor are independent and, therefore, the time the bacteria are exposed to alternate A/O conditions can be optimized. The very low concentrations of suspended solids in the effluent of the biofilter enable residual levels below 1 mg PO4-P/l to be obtained. Further investigations are carried out on full scale and to introduce denitrification in the same reactor.