Denitrifying bioreactor inflow manifold design for treatment of aquacultural wastewater

Christine Lepine, Laura Christianson, Gregory McIsaac, Steven Summerfelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) facilities subject to point-source effluent regulations need to implement cost-effective N remediation for their wastewater outflows. Relatively low-cost denitrifying “woodchip” bioreactors can effectively remove N from aquaculture effluents for at least one year, but questions remain about bioreactor lifespan for aquacultural wastewaters. Four pilot-scale bioreactors (L × W × D; 3.8 × 0.76 × 0.76 m), two with a conventional single distribution inflow manifold and two with an experimental multiple-header, feed-forward distribution manifold, were operated over 784 d to observe second-year N removal performance and to determine if the manifold design can influence bioreactor effectiveness. The study also quantified performance metrics for chemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, and phosphorus. Manifold style did not have notable impact on bioreactor performance when treating wastewater under the facilities’ normal operating conditions, but the multiple distribution style demonstrated an 11 % increase in nitrate and 12 % increase in total suspended solids removal efficiency over the single distribution manifold toward the end of the study when bioreactors treated higher strength wastewater. Additionally, bioreactor performance in both manifold designs decreased from an average of 92 % total suspended solids removal efficiency under normal operating conditions to <76 % when treating the high-strength wastewater. The bioreactors provided N removal rates of 17−25 g NO3-N m−3 d−1 during the second year of study, demonstrating woodchip bioreactors can effectively treat aquaculture effluent for at least two years without major detrimental impacts due to clogging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102036
JournalAquacultural Engineering
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • Denitrification
  • Pilot-scale
  • Recirculating aquaculture
  • Wastewater
  • Woodchip bioreactor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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