Advanced Environmental Biotechnology Centre, Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute, Nanyang Technological University, 1 Cleantech Loop, Singapore, 637141, Singapore; School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, 50 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore, 639798, Singapore. Electronic address: [Email]
Enhanced biological denitrification for nitrogen removal using sludge alkaline fermentation liquid (SAFL) as an alternative carbon source has been widely reported in previous studies, while limited studies focused on the degradation of the organics presented in SAFL. In this study, an SAFL driven anoxic denitrification sequencing batch reactor (SBR) was established, the mechanism of organics utilization was characterized and the refractory dissolved organic matters (rDOM) was identified. Denitrification could rapidly proceed with the presence of volatile fatty acids (VFAs) initially, while the denitrification rate largely decreased after the VFAs depleted. A great deal of rDOM, which was hard to be utilized by denitrifying microorganism, was found in the effluent. A prolonged hydraulic retention time (HRT) led to the further transformation of particles and colloids to smaller colloids and soluble organics. Extended HRT promoted the degradation of soluble microbial by-product (SMP), but had minor effect on the removal of humic-like, and fulvic acid-like substances. The characterization of the effluent demonstrated the building blocks, were dominated in the rDOM (43.79%-48.78%), followed by high molecular weight protein (HMW-PN) (13.37%-17.39%), HMW polysaccharide (HMW-PS) (12.84%-15.9%), low molecular weight (LMW) neutrals (11.28%-13.65%), and hydrophobic dissolved organic carbon (HO-DOC) (8.0%-12.62%). Moreover, it was found that the building blocks were relatively easy to be degraded with the extension of HRTs, followed by LMW-PS, LMW-PN, LMW neutrals, HMW-PN, and HMW-PS. However, further extended HRT >24 h could not improve the removal of building blocks, LMW-PS and LMW neutrals. This study, for the first time, provided insights into the transformation of organic matters produced by SAFL in a denitrification system and acted as a guide for the subsequent advanced treatment.