Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


James R. Mihelcic


Biochemical processes by chemoautotrophs such as nitrifiers and sulfide and iron oxidizers are used extensively in wastewater treatment. The research described in this dissertation involved the study of two selected biological processes utilized in wastewater treatment mediated by chemoautotrophic bacteria: nitrification (biological removal of ammonia and nitrogen) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) removal from odorous air using biofiltration.

A municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) receiving industrial dyeing discharge containing the azo dye, acid black 1 (AB1) failed to meet discharge limits, especially during the winter. Dyeing discharge mixed with domestic sewage was fed to sequencing batch reactors at 22oC and 7oC. Complete nitrification failure occurred at 7oC with more rapid nitrification failure as the dye concentration increased; slight nitrification inhibition occurred at 22oC. Dye-bearing wastewater reduced chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal at 7oC and 22oC, increased i effluent total suspended solids (TSS) at 7oC, and reduced activated sludge quality at 7oC. Decreasing AB1 loading resulted in partial nitrification recovery. Eliminating the dye-bearing discharge to the full-scale WWTP led to improved performance bringing the WWTP into regulatory compliance.

BiofilterTM, a dynamic model describing the biofiltration processes for hydrogen sulfide removal from odorous air emissions, was calibrated and validated using pilot- and full-scale biofilter data. In addition, the model predicted the trend of the measured data under field conditions of changing input concentration and low effluent concentrations. The model demonstrated that increasing gas residence time and temperature and decreasing influent concentration decreases effluent concentration. Model simulations also showed that longer residence times are required to treat loading spikes.

BiofilterTM was also used in the preliminary design of a full-scale biofilter for the removal of H2S from odorous air. Model simulations illustrated that plots of effluent concentration as a function of residence time or bed area were useful to characterize and design biofilters. Also, decreasing temperature significantly increased the effluent concentration. Model simulations showed that at a given temperature, a biofilter cannot reduce H2S emissions below a minimum value, no matter how large the biofilter.