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Nitrogen

Nutrient pollution is one of our most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are essential for the growth of all living organisms.  However, excessive amounts of nutrients released to the environment by human activities can harm ecosystems and impact human health.

EOSi’s MicroC® products were originally developed to help wastewater treatment systems remove nitrogen.  As regulatory and permitting requirements continue to reduce allowable nutrient discharges, EOSi has been helping more and more customers develop and implement nutrient compliance strategies.

The Problem

In surface waters, nitrogen can contribute to excessive growth of algae called algal “blooms” that can sicken or kill wildlife and harm aquatic habitats.  These algal blooms, typically referred to as eutrophication, consume the dissolved oxygen in the water, causing hypoxia, leaving little or no oxygen for fish and other aquatic organisms.  Algal blooms can harm aquatic plants by blocking the sunlight they need to grow.  Some algal blooms produce toxins and encourage bacterial growths that can sicken people who swim in or drink the water, or who eat tainted fish or shellfish.

Nitrogen in drinking water can pose health risks to people, particularly infants and pregnant women.  Elevated concentrations of a nitrogen compound called nitrate can cause methemoglobinemia, also known as “blue baby syndrome”, a potentially fatal illness in which the nitrates reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.  Nitrates in drinking water are a particular concern in agricultural areas where groundwater wells are the primary source of drinking water.

Nitrogen exists in many forms, but ammonia, nitrate (NO3) and nitrite (NO2) are of primary concern in the environment.  These compounds occur naturally when ammonia (NH4) from decomposing organic materials in the soil is oxidized to form nitrate and nitrite.  Other sources of nitrate and nitrite in the environment include fertilizers, atmospheric deposition, animal wastes, and sewage and septic systems.  

How EOSi can help

Wastewater treatment plants are increasingly required by state and federal regulatory agencies to reduce the amount of nitrogen discharged into the environment, particularly in sensitive watersheds.  EOSi offers services that help customers assess, develop, implement and update their compliance strategy for nitrogen removal programs.  EOSi’s MicroC® products are uniquely suited for use in biological processes that help remove nitrogen from wastewater.  

MicroC® can serve as a supplemental carbon source to support biological nitrogen removal (BNR).  BNR uses denitrification to convert nitrates in the wastewater into harmless water, nitrogen gas (N2) and carbon dioxide gas (CO2). Denitrification is a biological process that takes place under anoxic conditions.  Denitrification occurs after aerobic bacteria have converted the ammonia to nitrate in a process called nitrification. Often times there is insufficient organic material to support denitrification, therefore a supplemental carbon source, such as MicroC®, is added to the process to convert nitrate to nitrogen gas.