Two laboratory-scale biological filters were operated to investigate the effects of alkalinity and pH on removal of nitrate and nitrite in sulfur denitrification filter processes. The concentration of sodium bicarbonate in the feed media was changed from 120 to 240 mg/l during about 3 months in a filter (Run A). The other filter was initially fed with 300 mg/l and then with 240 mg/l (Run B). The performance of the filter was monitored by measuring pH, nitrate, nitrite, sulfate, alkalinity, and thiosulfate.
Nitrate concentration in effluent rapidly decreased to lower levels within several days for both filters after inoculation of enrichment culture of sulfur denitrifiers. However there was a large difference in removal of nitrite. When rapid removal of nitrate took place, nitrite accumulation was observed and remained while the bicarbonate concentration was 120 and 150 mg/l. On the other hand the nitrite accumulation disappeared when more bicarbonate (240 and 300 mg/l) was supplied. The experimental results indicated that the nitrite accumulation was closely related to pH condition and alkalinity level in the filter. The stable data of effluent water quality for 5 cases were collected and the relationship discussed between nitrite concentration and pH in effluents. The relationship indicated a strong pH dependency on nitrite accumulation below pH of 7.4. The pH condition around 7 is not so inhibitory to biological activity. Therefore, the pH within the biofilm would be low enough to suppress the nitrite reduction by sulfur denitrifiers, while the pH in effluent was not in the inhibitory range. It was recommended to keep the pH higher than 7.4 to prevent nitrite accumulation in the sulfur denitrification filter.