Enrichment of ¹⁵N/¹⁴N in wastewater-derived effluent varies with operational performance of treatment systems: implications for isotope monitoring in receiving environments

Munksgaard, Niels C., Warnakulasooriya, Kanchana N., Kennedy, Karen, Powell, Lynne, and Gibb, Karen S. (2017) Enrichment of ¹⁵N/¹⁴N in wastewater-derived effluent varies with operational performance of treatment systems: implications for isotope monitoring in receiving environments. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 189. pp. 1-10.

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Abstract

Stable nitrogen isotope ratios are routinely used to trace the dispersion and assimilation of wastewater-derived N in receiving environments, but few isotope studies have investigated wastewater treatment plants and ponds themselves. An improved understanding of N isotope compositions in effluent will help assess treatment plant processes and performance and will help trace sources of excess nutrients in receiving environments. Here, we assess N budgets and treatment processes in seven wastewater treatment plants and wastewater stabilisation ponds in northern Australia based on concentrations and isotope ratios of N in effluent. We show that δ15N values in effluent are linked to treatment type, effectiveness of conversion of ammonia and levels of gaseous N emissions. These relationships suggest that N isotope monitoring of wastewater treatment plants and ponds can provide an integrated assessment of treatment performance and gaseous N emissions on a pond- or plant-wide scale that is not readily available through other methods. Our findings further imply that monitoring N isotope ratios in receiving environments cannot be assumed to be universally effective as their sensitivity to uptake of wastewater-derived N will vary with the characteristics of individual treatment systems. Paradoxically, N isotope monitoring is less effective where treatment systems are functioning poorly and where monitoring needs are the greatest.

Item ID: 46765
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: nitrogen, isotopes, wastewater, ammonia, gas emissions, monitoring
ISSN: 1573-2959
Funders: Power and Water Corporation, Cairns Regional Council
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2017 23:30
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050206 Environmental Monitoring @ 50%
03 CHEMICAL SCIENCES > 0301 Analytical Chemistry > 030199 Analytical Chemistry not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960903 Coastal and Estuarine Water Management @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960912 Urban and Industrial Water Management @ 50%
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