Effect of nutrient loading and retention time on performance of high rate algal ponds

Nancy J. Cromar, Howard J. Fallowfield

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    Small pilot ponds in a glasshouse at the Scottish Agricultural College (Auchincruive) were used to investigate the effects of changing C:N:P loading rate and retention time on pond performance as measured by nutrient removal and dry matter biomass. One experiment investigated ponds operated at two C:N:P ratios: low (9:7:1) and high (104:10:1) and two retention times (4 and 7 days θ). Increasing retention time from 4 to 7 days increased the concentration of total (dry matter) and algal (chlorophyll α) biomass and the degree of nitrification. It also increased removal of phosphorus, but had no effect on nitrogen or COD removal. Cyanobacteria predominated in ponds operated at both 4 and 7 days, and the density of cyanobacteria increased with increased retention time. Nitrogen removal was independent of C:N:P ratio; indeed the lower C:N:P ratio favoured increased nitrification. A high C:N:P ratio increased phosphorus and COD removal and increased the concentration of algal biomass (chlorophyll a), but had little effect on total biomass (dry matter). A second experiment varied COD loading rate (600, 350 and 100 kg COD ha-1 d-1) while maintaining a constant retention time (either 5 or 7 days θ). Species composition was independent of retention time. The longer retention time increased both total and algal biomass concentration and also percentage of nitrogen removed. Nitrification was independent of retention time. Increasing loading rate increased dry matter production and resulted in a predominance of cyanobacteria over Chlorophyceae. Increased loading rate was related to increase in nitrogen removal, however more complete nitrification occurred at low COD loading rates. Phosphorus removal in the pond with 5-day (θ) remained constant independent of loading rate, but in the pond with 7-day θ phosphorus removal increased with increased COD loading. COD removal was independent of both retention time and loading rate.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)301-309
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Applied Phycology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1997


    • C:N:P ratio
    • High rate algal ponds
    • Loading rate
    • Retention time
    • Wastewater treatment


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