Original Article

Microbial Ecology

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 229-236

First online:

Progress Toward Understanding the Distribution of Accumulibacter Among Full-Scale Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal Systems

  • Shaomei HeAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Wisconsin at Madison
  • , April Z. GuAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University
  • , Katherine D. McMahonAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Wisconsin at Madison Email author 

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This study investigated the role of Accumulibacter-related bacterial populations and factors influencing their distribution in enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) systems in the USA. For this purpose, five full-scale wastewater treatment facilities performing EBPR were surveyed. The facilities had different configurations but were all treating primarily domestic wastewater. Two facilities had history of poor EBPR performance. Batch-scale acetate uptake and inorganic phosphate (Pi) release and uptake experiments were conducted to evaluate the EBPR activity of each sludge. Typical Pi and acetate profiles were observed, and EBPR activity was found to be positively correlated to polyphosphate (polyP)-accumulating organism (PAO) abundance, as determined by staining intracellular polyP. The abundance of Accumulibacter-related organisms was investigated using fluorescent in situ hybridization. Accumulibacter-related organisms were present in all full-scale EBPR facilities, at levels ranging from 9 to 24% of total cells. More than 80% of Accumulibacter-related organisms were estimated to have high polyP content, confirming their involvement in EBPR in these five facilities. However, Accumulibacter-related PAOs were only a fraction (40–69%) of the total PAO population. The variation of Accumulibacter-related PAO abundance among these EBPR systems suggests that multiple interacting factors such as wastewater characteristics and operational conditions are structuring PAO communities.