The main organic nitrogen compounds in municipal wastewater are heterocyclic compounds (e.g., nucleic acids) and proteins. Proteolysis and degradation of amino acids leads to liberation of ammonia by the various mechanisms of ammonification (Rheinheimer et al., 1988), including hydrolytic, oxidative, reductive, and desatura-tive deamination (Eqs. 14-17, respectively)

A significant amount of ammonia from urea cleavage or from ammonification of amino acids is assimilated in aerobic treatment processes for growth of bacteria (surplus sludge formation). It can be estimated that bacteria consist of roughly 50% protein and that the nitrogen content of protein is about 16%. Thus, for synthesis of 1 g of bacterial biomass, about 0.08 g of ammonia-N is required. To eliminate ammonia that is not used for cell growth during wastewater treatment, it must first be nitrified and then denitrified to molecular nitrogen or anaerobically oxidized with nitrite.

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