In Ireland, land-spreading is the most widely used method for treating dairy wastewaters. This can be labour intensive and can cause, in some cases, nitrate contamination of groundwater. In this study a simple pilot-scale horizontal flow biofilm reactor (HFBR) with a step-feed was developed and tested at a dairy farm site in County Offaly, Ireland for partial remediation of this soiled water prior to landspreading.

During the 122-day study, the top surface plan area (TSPA) hydraulic loading rate was 50 L/m2/day. Influent concentrations averaged: 2904.2 mg total chemical oxygen demand (COD)/L, 950 mg 5-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5)/L and 177.9 mg total nitrogen (TN)/L. Between Days 1 and 45 frequent ambient temperatures below 4°C inhibited the build-up of biomass resulting in low removals. From Day 45 the HFBR unit removed 74.9% total COD and 69.6% BOD5, equivalent to TSPA removals of 108.8 g COD/m2/day and 33.1 g BOD5/m2/day. On Sheet 29, by the end of the study, the NH4–N had reduced from 123.1 mg/L in the influent to 37.0 mg/L. TN removal in the reactor averaged 56.0% equating to a TSPA removal rate of 5.0 g TN/m2/day.

The HFBR does not require any mechanical aeration, was simple and inexpensive to construct and can provide a robust and economical alternative for the remediation of agricultural soiled water before landspreading.

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