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Water Res. 2014 Apr 15;53:153-67. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2013.12.035. Epub 2014 Jan 11.

Carbon mass balance and microbial ecology in a laboratory scale reactor achieving simultaneous sludge reduction and nutrient removal.

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Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA.
Civil Engineering Department, Shanghai Science & Technology, China.
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA. Electronic address:


Solids reduction in activated sludge processes (ASP) at source using process manipulation has been researched widely over the last two-decades. However, the absence of nutrient removal component, lack of understanding on the organic carbon, and limited information on key microbial community in solids minimizing ASP preclude the widespread acceptance of sludge minimizing processes. In this manuscript, we report simultaneous solids reduction through anaerobiosis along with nitrogen and phosphorus removals. The manuscript also reports carbon mass balance using stable isotope of carbon, microbial ecology of nitrifiers and polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs). Two laboratory scale reactors were operated in anaerobic-aerobic-anoxic (A(2)O) mode. One reactor was run in the standard mode (hereafter called the control-SBR) simulating conventional A(2)O type of activated sludge process and the second reactor was run in the sludge minimizing mode (called the modified-SBR). Unlike other research efforts where the sludge minimizing reactor was maintained at nearly infinite solids retention time (SRT). To sustain the efficient nutrient removal, the modified-SBR in this research was operated at a very small solids yield rather than at infinite SRT. Both reactors showed consistent NH3-N, phosphorus and COD removals over a period of 263 days. Both reactors also showed active denitrification during the anoxic phase even if there was no organic carbon source available during this phase, suggesting the presence of denitrifying PAOs (DNPAOs). The observed solids yield in the modified-SBR was 60% less than the observed solids yield in the control-SBR. Specific oxygen uptake rate (SOUR) for the modified-SBR was almost 44% more than the control-SBR under identical feeding conditions, but was nearly the same for both reactors under fasting conditions. The modified-SBR showed greater diversity of ammonia oxidizing bacteria and PAOs compared to the control-SBR. The diversity of PAOs in the modified-SBR was even more interesting in which case novel clades of Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis (CAP), an uncultured but widely found PAOs, were found.


Biological phosphorus removal; Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis; Denitrifiers; Polyphosphate kinase; Sludge minimization

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