The paper compares the performance of two trickling filters (TFs) filled with plastic- or sponge-based packing media treating the effluent from an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor. The UASB reactor was operated with an organic loading rate (OLR) of 1.2 kgCOD m−3 d−1, and the OLR applied to the TFs was 0.30–0.65 kgCOD m−3 d−1 (COD: chemical oxygen demand). The sponge-based packing medium (Rotosponge) gave substantially better performance for ammonia, total-N, and organic matter removal. The superior TF-Rotosponge performance for NH4+-N removal (80–95%) can be attributed to its longer biomass and hydraulic retention times (SRT and HRT), as well as enhancements in oxygen mass transfer by dispersion and advection inside the sponges. Nitrogen removals were significant (15 mgN L−1) in TF-Rotosponge when the OLRs were close to 0.75 kgCOD m−3 d−1, due to denitrification that was related to solids hydrolysis in the sponge interstices. For biochemical oxygen demand removal, higher HRT and SRT were especially important because the UASB removed most of the readily biodegradable organic matter. The new configuration of the sponge-based packing medium called Rotosponge can enhance the feasibility of scaling-up the UASB/TF treatment, including when retrofitting is necessary.

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