Membrane bioreactors (MBR) have become common in treating municipal wastewaters. Applied to leachates treatment MBR were also successful with pilot scale experiments and full-scale facilities as well. We succeeded previously in designing an efficient nitrification-denitrification process with an ethylene glycol byproduct as carbon source for denitrification. Moreover, an unexpectedly high inert COD removal efficiency was also observed in the full-scale MBR facility thereby making it possible to increase the operating time of the final GAC (Granulated Activated Carbon) adsorber. Since MBR are very sophisticated systems. Simpler and "lower" cost systems can also be considered. For example it is possible to nitrify leachates from sanitary landfill using a simple infiltration-percolation technique with a low energy cost. To validate previously published laboratory experiments, a semi industrial-scale pilot installation was installed at the Montzen landfill site (Belgium). The process is based on infiltration-percolation through a granular bed. This well known process was modified to increase the load, notably by changing the support medium, adding an electric fan that is run intermittently and maintaining temperatures greater than 15°C. The new material is a type of granular calcium carbonate with a large specific surface area. These technical improvements enabled the system to nitrify up to 0.4 kg NH4+-N/m3 of reactor bed per day at a hydraulic load of 0.35 m.d-1, with an ammonia removal rate in the range of 80 to 95%. Despite the high ammonia nitrogen inlet concentrations, this system exhibits remarkable nitrification efficiency. Moreover, these performances are achieved in a batch mode system without recirculation or dilution processes. If complete nitrification is needed, it can be obtained in a second in series of bioreactors. The system can be classified as a low cost process. An international patent is pending. Possible performances of those systems were compared with the usual methods for leachates treatment. © IWA Publishing 2004.
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