Ecology of the Microbial Community Removing Phosphate from Wastewater under Continuously Aerobic Conditions in a Sequencing Batch Reactor Academic Article uri icon


  • All activated sludge systems for removing phosphate microbiologically are configured so the biomass is cycled continuously through alternating anaerobic and aerobic zones. This paper describes a novel aerobic process capable of decreasing the amount of phosphate from 10 to 12 mg P liter(-1) to less than 0.1 mg P liter(-1) (when expressed as phosphorus) over an extended period from two wastewaters with low chemical oxygen demand. One wastewater was synthetic, and the other was a clarified effluent from a conventional activated sludge system. Unlike anaerobic/aerobic enhanced biological phosphate removal (EBPR) processes where the organic substrates and the phosphate are supplied simultaneously to the biomass under anaerobic conditions, in this aerobic process, the addition of acetate, which begins the feed stage, is temporally separated from the addition of phosphate, which begins the famine stage. Conditions for establishing this process in a sequencing batch reactor are detailed, together with a description of the changes in poly-beta-hydroxyalkanoate (PHA) and poly(P) levels in the biomass occurring under the feed and famine regimes, which closely resemble those reported in anaerobic/aerobic EBPR processes. Profiles obtained with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis were very similar for communities fed both wastewaters, and once established, these communities remained stable over prolonged periods of time. 16S rRNA-based clone libraries generated from the two communities were also very similar. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)/microautoradiography and histochemical staining revealed that "Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis" bacteria were the dominant poly(P)-accumulating organisms (PAO) in both communities, with the phenotype expected for PAO. FISH also identified large numbers of betaproteobacterial Dechloromonas and alphaproteobacterial tetrad-forming organisms related to Defluviicoccus in both communities, but while these organisms assimilated acetate and contained intracellular PHA during the feed stages, they never accumulated poly(P) during the cycles, consistent with the phenotype of glycogen-accumulating organisms.


  • Ahn, J
  • Schroeder, S
  • Beer, M
  • McIlroy, S
  • Bayly, RC
  • May, JW
  • Vasiliadis, G
  • Seviour, RJ

publication date

  • April 1, 2007