Nitrate and Selenate Microbial Reduction in the Membrane Biofilm Reactor for Artificial Mining Wastewater
Nitrate (NO3- ) and selenate (SeO42-) are common contaminants found in mining wastewater. Biological treatment has proved successful using bacteria capable of respiring NO3- into nitrogen gas and SeO42- into Se°. The Membrane Biofilm Reactor (MBfR) utilizes biofilm communities on the surface of hollow-fiber membranes to transform oxidized water contaminants into innocuous reduced products. For this project, I set up two MBfRs in a lead and lag configuration to reduce NO3- [input at ~40-45 mg NO3-N/L] and SeO42- [0.62 mg/L], while avoiding sulfate (SO42-) [~1600-1660 mg/L] reduction. Over the course of three experimental phases, I controlled two operating conditions: the applied hydrogen pressure and the total electron acceptor loading. NO3- in the lead MBfR showed average reductions of 50%, 94%, and 91% for phases I, II, and III, respectively. In the lag MBfR, NO3- was reduced by 40%, 96%, and 100% for phases I, II, and III. NO2- was formed in Stage I when NO3- was not reduced completely; nevertheless NO2- accumulation was absent for the remainder of operation. In the lead MBfR, SeO42- was reduced by 65%, 87%, and 50% for phases I, II, and III. In the lag MBfR, SeO42- was reduced 60%, 27%, and 23% for phases I, II, and III. SO42- was not reduced in either MBfR. Biofilm communities were composed of denitrifying bacteria Rhodocyclales and Burkholderiales, Dechloromonas along with the well-known SeO42--reducing Thauera were abundant genera in the biofilm communities. Although SO42- reduction was suppressed, sulfate-reducing bacteria were present in the biofilm. To optimize competition for electron donor and space in the biofilm, optimal operational conditions were hydrogen pressures of 26 and 7 psig and total electron acceptor loading of 3.8 and 3.4 g H2/m2 day for the lead and lag MBfR, respectively.