Water after sludge dewatering, also known as reject water from anaerobic digestion, is recycled back to the main wastewater treatment inlet in the wastewater treatment plant Porsgrunn, Norway, causing periodic process disturbance due to high ammonium of 568 (±76.7) mg/L and total chemical oxygen demand (tCOD) of 2825 (±526) mg/L. The main aim of this study was the simultaneous treatment of reject water ammonium and COD using two pilot-scale sequential moving bed biofilm reactors (MBBR) implemented in the main wastewater treatment stream. The two pilot MBBRs each had a working volume of 67.4 L. The biofilm carriers used had a protected surface area of 650 m2/m3 with a 60% filling ratio. The results indicate that the combined ammonia removal efficiency (ARE) in both reactors was 65.9%, while the nitrite accumulation rate (NAR) and nitrate production rate (NPR) were 80.2 and 19.8%, respectively. Over 28% of the reject water's tCOD was removed in both reactors. The heterotrophic nitrification and oxygen tolerant aerobic denitrification were the key biological mechanisms found for the ammonium removal in both reactors. The dominant bacterial family in both reactors was Alcaligenaceae, capable of simultaneous heterotrophic nitrification and denitrification. Moreover, microbial families that were found with equal potential for application of simultaneous heterotrophic nitrification and aerobic denitrification including Cloacamonaceae, Alcaligenaceae, Comamonadaceae, Microbacteriaceae, and Anaerolinaceae.
Keywords: biofilm; carriers; heterotrophic; reject water; sequencing.