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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Leetown, West Virginia » Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #316389

Research Project: Developing and Refining Technologies for Sustainable Fish Growth in Closed Containment Systems

Location: Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture Research

Title: Heterotrophic denitrification of aquaculture effluent using fluidized sand biofilters

item Tsukuda, Scott - Freshwater Institute
item Christianson, Laura - Freshwater Institute
item Kolb, Alex - Exxonmobil
item Saito, Keiko - University Of Maryland
item Summerfelt, Steven - Freshwater Institute

Submitted to: Aquacultural Engineering
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/22/2014
Publication Date: 11/26/2014
Citation: Tsukuda, S., Christianson, L., Kolb, A., Saito, K., Summerfelt, S. 2014. Heterotrophic denitrification of aquaculture effluent using fluidized sand biofilters. Aquacultural Engineering. 64:49-59.

Interpretive Summary: Reducing the amount of nutrients in fish farm outflows is important for increased environmental sustainability of seafood production. In our work to clean nitrogen from outflow water before it gets to streams, lakes, and the ocean, researchers found the wastewater itself could provide the “food” for beneficial bacteria to remove nitrogen from water. By providing these good bacteria sand to colonize, and running the nitrogen-laden water through the sand at high flow rates, these “fluidized sand biofilters” removed 27% of the nitrogen in the water. These results are important to USDA ARS stakeholders because they provide an additional water treatment technology option. Reducing nutrient outflows from agriculture will become increasingly important to protect valuable water resources.

Technical Abstract: The ability to consistently and cost-effectively reduce nitrate-nitrogen loads in effluent from recirculating aquaculture systems would enhance the industry's environmental stewardship and allow improved facility proximity to large markets in sensitive watersheds. Heterotrophic denitrification technologies specifically employing organic carbon found in aquaculture system waste offer a unique synergy for treatment of land-based, closed-containment production outflows. For space-efficient fluidized sand biofilters to be used as such denitrification reactors, system parameters (e.g., influent dissolved oxygen and carbon to nitrogen ratios, C:N) must be evaluated to most effectively use an endogenous carbon source. The objectives of this work were to quantify nitrate removal under a range of C:Ns and to explore the biofilter bacterial community using three replicated fluidized sand biofilters (height 3.9 m, diameter 0.31 m; fluidized sand volume plus biofilm volume of 0.206 m3) operated at a hydraulic retention time of 15 min and a hydraulic loading rate of 188 L/(min-m2) at The Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA. Nitrate reduction was consistently observed during the biofilter study period (26.9 plus or minus 0.9% removal efficiency; 402 plus or minus 14 g NO3-N/(m3 biofilter-d)) although nitrite-N and total ammonium nitrogen concentrations slightly increased (11 and 13% increases, respectively). Nitrate removal efficiency was correlated with carbonaceous oxygen demand to nitrate ratios (R2> 0.70). Nitrate removal rates during the study period were moderately negatively correlated with influent dissolved oxygen concentration indicating it may be possible the biofilter hydraulic retention time was too short to provide optimized nitrate removal. It is reasonable to assume that the efficiency of nitrate removal across the fluidized sand biofilters could be substantially increased, as long as organic carbon was not limiting, by increasing biofilter bed depths (to 6 - 10 m), and thus hydraulic retention time. These findings provide a low-cost yet effective technology to remove nitrate-nitrogen from effluent waters of land-based closed-containment aquaculture systems.