NOx and ammonium isotopic fingerprints of anammox in natural and engineered systems: Implications for N isotope budgets and the use of NOx isotopes to diagnose process stability in wastewater treatment

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Moritz F Lehmann1, Nicolas Stöcklin1, Benjamin Brunner2, Caitlin H Frame1, Adriano Joss3, Marco Kipf3, Thomas Kuhn1 and Pascal Wunderlin3, (1)University of Basel, Department of Environmental Sciences, Basel, Switzerland, (2)University of Texas at El Paso, Geological Sciences, El Paso, TX, United States, (3)EAWAG Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Duebendorf, Switzerland
The anaerobic oxidation of ammonium with nitrite (anammox) has been identified as a very important fixed nitrogen (N) sink, accounting for a large fraction of global fixed N loss in marine, freshwater, and semi-terrestrial environments. In engineered systems, combined nitritation-anammox is an efficient process to remove N from ammonium-rich wastewater, with nitrite as the central intermediate. During the anammox process, nitrate is being produced, providing reducing equivalents for carbon fixation. Measuring the N isotope ratios in fixed N species (i.e., ammonium, nitrite, nitrate) has proven to be a valuable tool to track N cycling in freshwater and marine ecosystems, yet its application in wastewater treatment as a tool to diagnose nitrate production pathways is novel. In this presentation we will elucidate, and compare, the N isotope effects associated with anammox 1) in vitro, 2) in a lacustrine setting, and 3) in a small-scale batch reactor for wastewater treatment. We demonstrate that the anammox nitrite/nitrate isotopic signatures are modulated by the superposition of strong kinetic (normal and inverse) and equilibrium (nitrite-nitrate) N isotope fractionation. The ammonium N isotope effect is driven by kinetic N isotope fractionation, and is similar to that of nitrification. We will discuss the possible controls on the expression of the anammox N isotope effects in the natural environment. We will also evaluate the use of nitrate/nitrite N (and O) isotope signatures to distinguish between nitrate production by anammox versus nitrite oxidation, which is important for optimizing process efficiency during wastewater treatment.