, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 285–299 | Cite as

Nitrogen removal performance and microbial community of an enhanced multistage A/O biofilm reactor treating low-strength domestic wastewater

  • Han Chen
  • Ang Li
  • Qiao Wang
  • Di Cui
  • Chongwei Cui
  • Fang Ma
Original Paper


The low-strength domestic wastewater (LSDW) treatment with low chemical oxygen demand (COD) has drawn extensive attention for the poor total nitrogen (TN) removal performance. In the present study, an enhanced multistage anoxic/oxic (A/O) biofilm reactor was designed to improve the TN removal performance of the LSDW treatment. Efficient nitrifying and denitrifying biofilm carriers were cultivated and then filled into the enhanced biofilm reactor as the sole microbial source. Step-feed strategy and internal recycle were adopted to optimize the substrate distribution and the organics utilization. Key operational parameters were optimized to obtain the best nitrogen and organics removal efficiencies. A hydraulic retention time of 8 h, an influent distribution ratio of 2:1 and an internal recycle ratio of 200% were tested as the optimum parameters. The ammonium, TN and COD removal efficiencies under the optimal operational parameters separately achieved 99.75 ± 0.21, 59.51 ± 1.95 and 85.06 ± 0.79% with an organic loading rate at around 0.36 kg COD/m3 d. The high-throughput sequencing technology confirmed that nitrifying and denitrifying biofilm could maintain functional bacteria in the system during long-period operation. Proteobacteria and Bacteroidetes were the dominant phyla in all the nitrifying and denitrifying biofilm samples. Nitrosomonadaceae_uncultured and Nitrospira sp. stably existed in nitrifying biofilm as the main nitrifiers, while several heterotrophic genera, such as Thauera sp. and Flavobacterium sp., acted as potential genera responsible for TN removal in denitrifying biofilm. These findings suggested that the enhanced biofilm reactor could be a promising route for the treatment of LSDW with a low COD level.


Nitrogen removal Microbial community Low-strength domestic wastewater Enhanced multistage A/O biofilm reactor High-throughput sequencing 



This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 51608154 and 51478140), Open Project of State Key Laboratory of Urban Water Resource and Environment, Harbin Institute of Technology (No. HC201526-01), the Science Research and Technology Development Project of Guangxi (Grant No. Guikehe1599005-2-2), and the HIT Environment and Ecology Innovation Special Funds (Grant No. HSCJ201604).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

10532_2018_9829_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Urban Water Resource and Environment, School of EnvironmentHarbin Institute of TechnologyHarbinPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Research Center on Life Sciences and Environmental SciencesHarbin University of CommerceHarbinPeople’s Republic of China

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