Previous work through the 1990s in the Thames Water region in the UK has demonstrated the ability of the trickling filter process to produce fully nitrified effluents, reliably throughout the year. The original data used for the nitrification model derivations have been reanalysed, to investigate the degree of nitrogen removal across the process. Removals of total nitrogen ranging from 0% to over 50% were observed across the trickling filter process and calculated total nitrogen removals of 26-63% were obtained when primary treatment was included. The degree of nitrogen removal and biological denitrification (excluding cellular assimilation) was found to be strongly influenced by BOD load, irrigation velocity and media size. Regression models were produced which gave good predictive relationships for the data ranges used.

The models produced worked for filters used with and without a recirculation of effluent nitrate which suggests that a significant degree of nitrification occurred in areas of high heterotroph activity (BOD removal). The simplicity and energy efficiency of the trickling filter process, combined with its capacity for full nitrification and partial denitrification, make the process attractive as a combined process used with pond systems in developing countries where nitrogen removal may be required. Some of these synergies have already been developed with the PETRO® process in South Africa.

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