Impact of acetic acid addition on nitrogen speciation and bacterial communities during urine collection and storage

Daniella Saetta, Chenwei Zheng, Carlos Leyva, Treavor H. Boyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The rate of urea hydrolysis in nonwater urinals is influenced by the volume of urination events and the frequency of urinal use. Inhibition of urea hydrolysis with acetic acid addition has been demonstrated at the laboratory scale but it was not able to fully represent the conditions of a real restroom with real urine collection. The goal of this study was to understand the effects of acid addition for control of urea hydrolysis on nutrient concentrations and bacterial communities in human urine during collection and storage. Three control logics were used to determine the schedule of acid addition: (i) acid addition after every urination event, (ii) acid addition during periods of high building occupancy, and (iii) acid addition during periods of low building occupancy. Wifi logins were used to approximate building occupancy and to create the control logics used in the study. All three control logics were able to inhibit urea hydrolysis. The bacterial communities were identified to determine the impact of acid addition on the community structure. The collection of urine by nonwater urinals alone did not reduce the presence of enteric bacteria commonly found when collecting urine with urine-diverting toilets. Acid addition reduced the community diversity and created conditions for higher relative abundances of the order Enterobacteriales. Finally, results from stored acidified urine showed that urea hydrolysis inhibition is reversible and is influenced by the amount of acid added at the urinal. The amount of acid added can influence the rate of hydrolysis in the storage tanks and can be used to select for urea- or ammonia-nitrogen for nutrient recovery. This study is the first of its kind to inhibit urea hydrolysis in nonwater urinals in a real restroom with real urine, and is the first to identify the bacterial communities in urine collected solely with nonwater urinals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number141010
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 25 2020


  • Sensors
  • Urea hydrolysis
  • Urine bacterial communities
  • Urine chemistry
  • Urine diversion
  • Urine source separation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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