Phosphorus (P) limitation has been demonstrated for micro-polluted surface water denitrification treatment in previous study. In this paper, a lab-scale comparative study of autotrophic denitrification (ADN) and heterotrophic denitrification (HDN) in phosphorus-limited surface water was investigated, aiming to find out the optimal nitrogen/phosphorus (N/P) ratio and the mechanism of the effect of P limitation on ADN and HDN. Furthermore, the optimal denitrification process was applied to the West Lake denitrification project, aiming to improve the water quality of the West Lake from worse than grade V to grade IV (GB3838-2006). The lab-scale study showed that the lack of P indeed inhibited HDN more greatly than ADN. The optimal N/P ratio for ADN and HDN was 25 and a 0.15 mg PO4 3--P L−1 of microbial available phosphorus (MAP) was observed. P additions could greatly enhance the resistance of ADN and HDN to hydraulic loading shock. Besides, The P addition could effectively stimulate the HDN performance via enriching the heterotrophic denitrifiers and the denitrifying phosphate-accumulating organisms (DNPAOs). Additionally, HDN was more effective and cost-effective than ADN for treating P-limited surface water. The study of the full-scale HDBF (heterotrophic denitrification biofilter) indicated that the denitrification performance was periodically impacted by P limitation, particularly at low water temperatures. The lack of phosphorus inhibited HDN more greatly than ADN.
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