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Postprint of: Oakes, JM, Eyre, BD & Ross, DJ 2011, 'Short-term enhancement and long-term suppression of denitrification in estuarine sediments receiving primary- and secondary- treated paper and pulp mill discharge', Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 45, no. 8, pp. 3400-3406.

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To determine the role of sediment denitrification in removing inputs of primary- (PE) and secondary-treated effluent (SE) from a pulp and paper mill (PPM), organic matter (OM) associated with PE (residual wood fiber) and SE (activated sludge biomass and phytoplankton) was added to estuarine intertidal sediments and denitrification rates were measured over 27 days. Labile sludge biomass and phytoplankton initially stimulated denitrification, including for pre-existing sediment N. After 2.5 d, however, denitrification was suppressed apparently due to microbial competition for N to process the refractory (high C:N) material remaining. Wood fiber suppressed denitrification throughout the experiment due to competition for N to process the refractory OM. Ultimate long-term denitrification suppression by phytoplankton is offset by initial enhanced denitrification rates. Although nutrient release during degradation of sludge biomass and wood fiber may stimulate phytoplankton production, N equivalent to 127% of the expected daily phytoplankton load was denitrified within 24 h, allowing for permanent removal of PPM-derived N. Compared to primary treatment, secondary treatment of PPM effluent has greater potential for N removal.

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