bioreactor landfill, nitrification, aerobic, nitrogen, ammonia


A new and promising trend in solid waste management is to operate the landfill as a bioreactor. Bioreactor landfills are controlled systems in which moisture addition and/or air injection are used as enhancements to create a solid waste environment capable of actively degrading the biodegradable organic fraction of the waste. Although there are many advantages associated with bioreactor landfills, some challenges remain. One such challenge is the ammonia-nitrogen concentration found in the leachate. The concentrations of ammonia-nitrogen tend to increase beyond concentrations found in leachate from conventional landfills because recirculating leachate increases the rate of ammonification and results in accumulation of higher levels of ammonia-nitrogen concentrations, even after the organic fraction of the waste is stabilized. Because ammonia-nitrogen persists even after the organic fraction of the waste is stabilized, and because of its toxic nature, it is likely that ammonia-nitrogen will determine when the landfill is biologically stable and when post-closure monitoring may end. Thus an understanding of the fate of nitrogen in bioreactor landfills is critical to a successful and economic operation. Ammonia-nitrogen is typically removed from leachate outside of the landfill. However, additional costs are associated with ex-situ treatment of ammonia, as separate treatment units on site must be maintained or the leachate must be pumped to a publicly owned wastewater treatment facility. Therefore, the development of an in-situ nitrogen removal technique would be an attractive alternative. Several recent in-situ treatment approaches have been explored, but lacked the information necessary for field-scale implementation. The objectives of this study were to develop information necessary to implement in-situ ammonia removal at the field-scale. Research was conducted to evaluate the kinetics of in-situ ammonia removal and to subsequently develop guidance for field-scale implementation. An aerobic reactor and microcosms containing digested municipal solid waste were operated and parameters were measured to determine nitrification kinetics under conditions likely found in bioreactor landfills. The environmental conditions evaluated include: ammonia concentration (500 and 1000mg N/L), temperature (25o, 35o and 45oC), and oxygen concentration in the gas-phase (5, 17 and 100%). Results suggest that in-situ nitrification is feasible and that the potential for simultaneous nitrification and denitrification in field-scale bioreactor landfills is significant due to the presence of both aerobic and anoxic areas. All rate data were fitted to the Monod equation, resulting in an equation that describes the impact of pH, oxygen concentration, ammonia concentration, and temperature on ammonia removal. In order to provide design information for a field-scale study, a simple mass balance model was constructed in FORTRAN to forecast the fate of ammonia injected into a nitrifying portion of a landfill. Based on model results, an economic analysis of the in-situ treatment method was conducted and compared to current ex-situ leachate treatment costs. In-situ nitrification is a cost effective method for removing ammonia-nitrogen when employed in older waste environments. Compared to reported on-site treatment costs, the costs associated with the in-situ ammonia removal process fall within and are on the lower end of the range found in the literature. When compared to treating the leachate off-site, the costs of the in-situ ammonia removal process are always significantly lower. Validation of the laboratory results with a field-scale study is needed.


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Graduation Date





Reinhart, Debra


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Degree Program

Environmental Engineering








Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)