The aim was to evaluate and compare total nitrogen (TN) removal in pilot-scale partially saturated vertical wetlands (PSVWs) with and without an internal solid source of organic carbon (corncob) in order to distinguish the role of nitrification-denitrification and ANAMMOX in the removal process. The height of the free-drainage zone (FDZ) was 40 cm and the saturated zone (SZ) was 30 cm in system I (SI) and system II (SII) and 40 cm in system III (SIII) and system IV (SIV). In SII and SIV, approximately 30 kg of dry, 5 cm-length corncob was added. The systems were evaluated during two periods, that is, P1 and P2. Measurements of water quality parameters including BOD5, COD, organic nitrogen (Org-N), ammonium, nitrate and nitrite were taken in the influent and effluents on a weekly basis; nitrate measurements were also taken at the interface. Measurements of pH, dissolved oxygen (DO) and oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) were taken in the SZ. The height of both SZ (40 cm vs. 30 cm in P1) and FDZ (40 vs. 25 and 30 cm in SI/SIII in P2) did not affect the efficiencies (p > 0.05) but the presence or absence of corn cob did (p < 0.05). Thus, SII and SIV were superior when compared to SI and SIII (p < 0.05) with TN average removal efficiencies of 72.9% and 73.2% in P1, and 59.8% and 64.2% in P2, respectively; showing a tendency to lower values when the biodegradable organics supplied by the corncob diminished. In SI and SIII, TN removals were 47.6% and 40.3% in P1, and 46.1% and 44.1% in P2, respectively. In SII and SIV, denitrification took place in both the lower semi-saturated part of the FDZ (probably also ANAMMOX) and SZ; whereas in SI and SIII, ANAMMOX took place in the lower semi-saturated part of the FDZ.
Keywords: ANAMMOX; Denitrification; corncob; nitrification; solid carbon source.
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