Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Sarina J. Ergas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Norma Alcantar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kamal Alsharif, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Treavor Boyer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey A. Cunningham, Ph.D.


Anaerobically digested swine centrate, bioregeneration, nitrification inhibition, simultaneous nitrification-denitrification, zeolite pretreatment


Anaerobic digestion (AD) has been shown to be an effective technique for energy recovery and stabilization of livestock wastes, municipal sludges and industrial wastewaters. However, further treatment is required to remove nitrogen from AD effluents to avoid detriments to surface and ground waters. The high free ammonia (FA) concentrations present in AD effluents can inhibit nitrification processes in conventional biological nitrogen removal (BNR) systems. The overall goal of this research was to develop a process for removal of nitrogen from AD swine waste (ADSW) effluent. The proposed solution was to incorporate particulate chabazite, which has a high cation exchange capacity, into a sequencing batch reactor (SBR) to adsorb ammonium and therefore ease nitrification inhibition. The process developed is called a chabazite-SBR. Three research questions were used to guide this research.

First question (Chapter 3): How does chabazite pretreatment with groundwater (GW) affect the kinetics and cation exchange capacity during ammonium (NH4+) uptake? Kinetics and isotherm batch tests were performed with GW pretreated chabazite. In addition, sodium chloride (NaCl), and deionized water (DI) pretreated chabazite was included for comparison because these are typically used pretreatment methods. The Ion Exchange (IX) isotherm model was used to calculate the cation exchange capacity and the pseudo-first and film diffusion kinetics models were applied to quantify the effect of the pretreatment on the reaction rate. Results showed that the exchange capacity was slightly higher for GW pretreated chabazite compared with the other common pretreatment strategies; however, the enhancement was not significantly different. The kinetics of NH4+ uptake during the first four hours of contact was significantly improved by GW pretreatment when compared with other common pretreatment strategies. This was caused by an enhancement in film diffusion mechanisms. The findings of this first part of the research were important because it was shown that NaCl pretreatment is not needed to improve the kinetics and cation exchange capacity of chabazite.

Second question (Chapter 4): How does addition of chabazite to ADSW centrate affect nitrification rates? Nitrification batch test with varying NH4+ concentrations were performed to identify the inhibitory NH4+ concentration. Additional nitrification batch tests treating real and synthetic waste with initial NH4+ concentration of 1,000 mg-N L-1 with added zeolite were performed. For the mixed liquor tested in this study, NH4+ concentrations must be maintained below 200 mg-N L-1 to relieve nitrification inhibition. Treatment of ADSW centrate requires a chabazite dose of 150 g L-1 to ease FA inhibition of nitrification. The rate of nitrification increased, by approximately a factor of 3, when chabazite was added to a batch reactor treating high NH4+ strength wastewater. However, Na+ release from the chabazite also plays a role in nitrification inhibition. The findings of this part of the research showed the potential for using chabazite for overcoming FA inhibition of nitrification during treatment of high NH4+ strength wastewater.

Third question (Chapter 5): How effective is the chabazite-SBR in removing total nitrogen concentrations from ADSW centrate? A chabazite-SBR was operated for 40 weeks (cycles) to study the TN removal efficiency with varying carbon source. The efficiency of IX was also monitored over time. The chabazite-SBR process achieved stable TN removal from ADSW centrate during the 40 weeks of operation. Simultaneous nitrification-denitrification reduced chemical input requirements. Addition of an external organic carbon source at a rate of 3.2 g-COD g-N-1 resulted in maximum TN removal. An overall TN removal efficiency of 84% was achieved, with specific nitrification and denitrification rates of 0.43 and 1.49 mg-N g-VSS-1 hr-1, respectively. The IX stage of the chabazite-SBR was able to reduce FA concentrations to below the inhibitory level for nitrification inhibition over 40 chabazite-SBR cycles with no loss in IX efficiency over time and no fresh zeolite added to the reactor.