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Composition of activated sludge settling and planktonic bacterial communities treating industrial effluent and their correlation to settling problems

Abstract

Problems with deflocculation and solids separation in biological wastewater treatment systems are linked to fluctuations in physicochemical conditions. This study examined the composition of activated sludge bacterial communities in lab-scale sequencing batch reactors treating bleached kraft mill effluent, under transient temperature conditions (30 to 45 °C) and their correlation to sludge settleability problems. The bacterial community composition of settled and planktonic biomass samples in the reactors was monitored via denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis of 16S ribosomal RNA gene fragments. Our analysis showed that settled biomass has a different community composition from the planktonic biomass (49 ± 7% difference based on Jaccard similarity coefficients; p < 0.01). During times of poor sludge compression, the settled and planktonic biomass became more similar. This observation supports the hypothesis that settling problems observed were due to deflocculation of normally settling flocs rather than the outgrowth of non-settling bacterial species.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the financial support from the members of the “Minimizing the Impact of Pulp and Paper Mill Discharges Consortium” and “Environmental Consortium” at the Pulp and Paper Centre, University of Toronto: Aracruz Celulose S.A., Bowater Canadian Forest Products Inc., Carter Holt Harvey Tasman, Domtar Inc., EKA Chemicals Inc., Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Irving Pulp and Paper Ltd., Japan Carlit Co. Ltd., ERCO Worldwide, Tembec Inc., Votorantim Celulose e Papel SA, and Tembec Inc. In addition, financial support from Ontario Graduate Scholarship and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology to Nalina Nadarajah is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Roberta R. Fulthorpe.

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Nadarajah, N., Allen, D.G. & Fulthorpe, R.R. Composition of activated sludge settling and planktonic bacterial communities treating industrial effluent and their correlation to settling problems. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 88, 1205–1214 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-010-2829-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-010-2829-3

Keywords

  • Activated sludge
  • Deflocculation
  • DGGE
  • Population composition
  • Planktonic community