Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering


College of Engineering


Dr. Tryg Lundquist

Advisor Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


Nitrogen removal technologies can help dairy industries meet their nutrient management needs. This thesis investigated two separate treatment technologies for total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) removal: algae raceway ponds and aerated biofilm reactors. Six 1000- liter algae raceway ponds and four 1000-liter tote tanks, each equipped with 10 sheets of nonwoven geotextile (i.e., thermally bonded or needle-punched) biofilm substrate, were used to treat the effluent from a flush dairy in central coastal California (TAN = 251 mg/L, cBOD5 = 204 mg/L). For the algae raceway ponds (TAN loading rate = 7 - 35 g/m³-day among 7-, 10- and 14-day hydraulic residence times (HRT)), first-order removal rate constants (k) were ~0.2 day⁻¹ in the summer and 0.1 - 0.2 day⁻¹ in the winter. Removal rate constants had no correlations (R² < 0.1) with water temperature, weak to moderate (for 7-day ponds, R² = 0.55) correlations with insolation and weak to no correlations with biomass (i.e. volatile solids) concentration. During the winter, low insolation likely inhibited algal photosynthesis and biological TAN treatment. Ponds with 7-day HRT had distinct absence of nitrate and nitrite compared to 10- and 14-day ponds. Net productivities were ~20 g/m²-day in summer and 9 – 11 g/m²-day in winter; gross productivities were 120 – 160 g/m²-day in summer and 77 – 150 g/m²-day in winter. Productivities had no correlations (R² < 0.1) with water temperature and weak to moderate correlations (for 14-day ponds, net productivity R² = 0.56, gross productivity R² = 0.83) with insolation. Analysis of organic compounds in pond effluent showed dissolved volatile solids (~2300 mg/L) were mostly non-biodegradable (~98% of soluble oxygen demand). Dissolved organic nitrogen concentrations in the pond effluent were ~35 mg/L.

For the aerated biofilm reactors, tanks with needle-punched geotextiles had greater first- order TAN removal rate constants (0.69 day⁻¹) than tanks with thermally bonded geotextiles (0.23 day⁻¹) while operating in batch mode. Needle-punched geotextile reactor also accumulated sludge faster and had higher attached to water column biomass (i.e. volatile solids) ratios (~0.08 g VS/g VS) than thermally bonded geotextile reactor (~0.04 g VS/g VS). Among the four tanks, mass of attached biomass was 150 – 340 g per tank while mass of biomass in the water column was 3290 – 5430 g per tank.

Comparing the two treatment technologies, aerated biofilm reactors (removal = 64 – 77%, k = 0.2 – 0.3 day⁻¹, removal rate = 36 – 43 g-N/m²-day, 16 – 19 g-N/m³-day) had more removal and faster removal rates per square meter of land footprint compared to the algae raceway ponds (removal = 38 – 77%, k = 0.1 – 0.2 day⁻¹, removal rate = 4 – 5 g- N/m²-day, 13 – 17 g-N/m³-day), likely due to direct application of aerators in the reactors.