Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 100, Issue 14, pp 6361–6373 | Cite as

A survey of biofilms on wastewater aeration diffusers suggests bacterial community composition and function vary by substrate type and time

  • Peter A. Noble
  • Hee-Deung Park
  • Betty H. OlsonEmail author
  • Pitiporn Asvapathanagul
  • M. Colby Hunter
  • Manel Garrido-Baserba
  • Sang-Hoon Lee
  • Diego RossoEmail author
Genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics


Aeration diffusers in wastewater treatment plants generate air bubbles that promote mixing, distribution of dissolved oxygen, and microbial processing of dissolved and suspended matter in bulk solution. Biofouling of diffusers represents a significant problem to wastewater treatment plants because biofilms decrease oxygen transfer efficiency and increase backpressure on the blower. To better understand biofouling, we conducted a pilot study to survey the bacterial community composition and function of biofilms on different diffuser substrates and compare them to those in the bulk solution. DNA was extracted from the surface of ethylene–propylene-diene monomer (EPDM), polyurethane, and silicone diffusers operated for 15 months in a municipal treatment plant and sampled at 3 and 9 months. The bacterial community composition and function of the biofilms and bulk solution were determined by amplifying the 16S rRNA genes and pyrosequencing the amplicons and raw metagenomic DNA. The ordination plots and dendrograms of the 16S rRNA and functional genes showed that while the bacterial community composition and function of the bulk solution was independent of sampling time, the composition and function of the biofilms differed by diffuser type and testing time. For the EPDM and silicone diffusers, the biofilm communities were more similar in composition to the bulk solution at 3 months than 9 months. In contrast, the bacteria on the polyurethane diffusers were more dissimilar to the bulk solution at 3 months than 9 months. Taken together, the survey showed that the community composition and function of bacterial biofilms depend on the diffuser substrate and testing time, which warrants further elucidation.


Next-generation sequencing Wastewater Aeration diffusers Biofouling 


Compliance with ethical standards

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

253_2016_7604_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (786 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 785 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter A. Noble
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hee-Deung Park
    • 3
    • 4
  • Betty H. Olson
    • 4
    Email author
  • Pitiporn Asvapathanagul
    • 5
  • M. Colby Hunter
    • 2
  • Manel Garrido-Baserba
    • 4
  • Sang-Hoon Lee
    • 3
  • Diego Rosso
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PeriodonticsUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.PhD Program in MicrobiologyAlabama State UniversityMontgomeryUSA
  3. 3.School of Civil, Environmental and Architectural EngineeringKorea UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  4. 4.The Henry Samueli School of EngineeringUniversity of California, IrvineIrvineUSA
  5. 5.Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering ManagementCollege of Engineering at California State UniversityLong BeachUSA

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