Leachates from Helophyte Leaf-Litter Enhance Nitrogen Removal from Wastewater Treatment Plant Effluents

Ribot, MiquelCochero, JoaquínVaessen, Timothy N.Bernal, Susana Bastias, ElliotGacia, Esperança Sorolla, AlbertSabater, FrancescMartí, Eugènia. Environmental Science and Technology : doi:10.1021/acs.est.8b07218 (2019)  DIGITAL CSIC

Bioengineering techniques are currently used in a wide variety of wastewater treatment systems. Aquatic plants (i.e., helophytes) used in these techniques reduce excess nitrogen (N) from water column via assimilation. Moreover, leachates from plant leaf-litter can serve as an additional source of labile dissolved organic matter (DOM), which can promote aerobic respiration and N removal via denitrification. We tested the influence of leaf-litter leachates from Iris pseudacorus and Phragmites australis on the structure and activity of freshwater biofilms grown in flumes fed by effluent from a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The responses of the epilithic biofilm to the inputs of leaf-litter leachates were compared to those measured using a brewery byproduct rich in sugars and to the WWTP effluent water (i.e., control). All DOM sources significantly enhanced aerobic respiration and denitrification of the biofilm when compared to the controls, with increases in total microbial abundance but not in denitrifier abundance. The results suggest that metabolic activity of biofilms may be limited by bioavailability of DOM in WWTP effluent; and leaf-litter leachates of helophytes used in bioengineering techniques could alleviate this limitation by enhancing microbial N and C uptake.