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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1987 Apr;53(4):754-60.

Nitrifying bacteria in wastewater reservoirs.

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Laboratory for Environmental Applied Microbiology, The Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede-Boqer Campus, 84990 Israel.


Deep wastewater reservoirs are used throughout Israel to store domestic wastewater effluents for summer irrigation. These effluents contain high concentrations of ammonia (</=5 mM) that are frequently toxic to photosynthetic microorganisms and that lead to development of anoxic conditions. Population dynamics of nitrifying bacteria and rates of nitrification were studied in two wastewater reservoirs that differed in organic load and degree of oxygenation and in the laboratory under controlled conditions, both by serial dilutions in mineral medium and microscopically with fluorescein isothiocyanate-conjugated antibodies prepared against local isolates. The difference in counts by the two methods was within 1 order of magnitude. In the laboratory, an O(2) concentration of 0.2 mg liter was close to optimal with respect to growth of NH(3) oxidizers on domestic wastewater, while O(2) concentrations of 0.05 mg liter supported significant rates of nitrification. It was found that even hypertrophic anaerobic environments such as the anaerobic hypolimnion of the wastewater reservoir or the anaerobic settling ponds are capable of sustaining a viable, although not actively nitrifying, population of Nitrosomonas spp. and Nitrobacter spp., in contrast to their rapid decline when maintained anaerobically in mineral medium in the laboratory. Nitrification rates of NH(3) in effluents during storage in the reservoirs were slower by 1 to 2 orders of magnitude compared with corresponding rates in water samples brought to the laboratory. The factors causing this inhibition were not identified.

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