Nitrifying bacteria activity and concentrations depend on specific free ammonia concentration (ratio NH3/biomass), that is a function of temperature, pH, ammonium concentration and nitrifying biomass concentration. So, temperature is a key parameter in the nitrification process producing two opposite effects: bacteria activation and free ammonia inhibition. These phenomena are studied in an up-flow biological aerated filter (UBAF) settled by a nitrifying biofilm (measured as Volatile Attached Solids, VAS). The plug flow allows to disclosure of both effects, activation and inhibition. For Nitrosomonas bacteria only an activation effect was observed; their activity reaches a maximum at 28-29 °C. For Nitrobacter the free ammonia inhibition prevails against the activation effect for values greater than 1 mg N-NH3/mg VAS allowing nitrite accumulation of 80%; this inhibition threshold value for nitrifying biofilm is obtained measuring the specific rate of utilization of substratum per unit of biomass (μmax/Y) by activity test. The knowledge of this threshold in a biofilm process is fundamental in order to control the nitrite accumulation in nitrifying biofilm reactors.

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