Cameron, S.G., Schipper, L.A. (2011). Evaluation of passive solar heating and alternative flow regimes on nitrate removal in denitrification beds. Ecological Engineering, 37(8), 1195-1204.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5218
Denitrification beds are a simple and relatively inexpensive technology for removing nitrate from point source discharges. To date, operational beds have used wood media as the carbon source, as it provides a sustained nitrate removal rate (2–10 g N m⁻³ of media d⁻¹) while maintaining permeability. In pilot-scale (2.9 m⁻³) denitrification beds receiving municipal wastewater effluent dosed with KNO₃, we looked at improving nitrate removal by using alternative carbon media (maize cobs) and increasing bed temperature through passive solar heating. The influence of flow regime (horizontal-point, horizontal-diffuse, downflow and upflow) on short-circuit flow was also investigated. The long-term nitrate removal rate (21.8 g N m⁻³ d⁻¹) of the maize cob beds over the 15-month period of the trial was 2–11-fold higher than sustained removal rates reported by other researchers for wood-based beds. While passive solar heating raised the mean bed temperature by 3.4 °C, it did not cause a measurable increase in the nitrate removal rate due to the variability in the removal rate exceeding the expected increase due to temperature. Horizontal flow had more short-circuiting than vertical flow. Short-circuiting in the horizontal flow was attributed to flow being concentrated near the top surface due to the buoyancy effect of warmer water. Greater short-circuiting in the solar heated horizontal and upflow beds than in the corresponding unheated beds was attributed to the buoyancy effect being more pronounced in the solar heated beds. Overall, downflow was deemed the most effective of the four tested flow regimes. It provided the highest increase in bed temperature due to solar heating, had the highest nitrate removal rate in the latter part of the trial and had more plug-flow characteristics. While passive solar heating raised bed temperature, we were unable to demonstrate a significant difference (at 95% CL) in nitrate removal rate between the unheated and solar heated beds because of the high variability in nitrate removal rate and the increase in short-circuiting in the solar heated horizontal and upflow beds.