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Water Environ Res. 2008 Aug;80(8):688-98.

Functionally relevant microorganisms to enhanced biological phosphorus removal performance at full-scale wastewater treatment plants in the United States.

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  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. april@coe.neu.edu


The abundance and relevance ofAccumulibacter phosphatis (presumed to be polyphosphate-accumulating organisms [PAOs]), Competibacter phosphatis (presumed to be glycogen-accumulating organisms [GAOs]), and tetrad-forming organisms (TFOs) to phosphorus removal performance at six full-scale enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) wastewater treatment plants were investigated. Coexistence of various levels of candidate PAOs and GAOs were found at these facilities. Accumulibacter were found to be 5 to 20% of the total bacterial population, and Competibacter were 0 to 20% of the total bacteria population. The TFO abundance varied from nondetectable to dominant. Anaerobic phosphorus (P) release to acetate uptake ratios (P(rel)/HAc(up)) obtained from bench tests were correlated positively with the abundance ratio of Accumulibacter/(Competibacter +TFOs) and negatively with the abundance of (Competibacter +TFOs) for all plants except one, suggesting the relevance of these candidate organisms to EBPR processes. However, effluent phosphorus concentration, amount of phosphorus removed, and process stability in an EBPR system were not directly related to high PAO abundance or mutually exclusive with a high GAO fraction. The plant that had the lowest average effluent phosphorus and highest stability rating had the lowest P(rel)/HAc(up) and the most TFOs. Evaluation of full-scale EBPR performance data indicated that low effluent phosphorus concentration and high process stability are positively correlated with the influent readily biodegradable chemical oxygen demand-to-phosphorus ratio. A system-level carbon-distribution-based conceptual model is proposed for capturing the dynamic competition between PAOs and GAOs and their effect on an EBPR process, and the results from this study seem to support the model hypothesis.

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