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Denitrifying phosphorus removal systems make use of the ability that some microorganisms have to remove phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) simultaneously, i.e. using nitrate or nitrite as electron acceptor, instead of oxygen. Denitrifying polyphosphate accumulating organisms (DPAOs) have been reported in literature in various studies, mostly employing acetate as the carbon source. However, propionate is also very abundant in wastewater treatment plants and has been proven to sustain more efficient P removal microbial populations than acetate. Therefore, this study compared the potential of propionate and acetate as substrate for denitrifying P removal.

In this study, sludge initially fed with a mixture of three volatile fatty acids (acetate, propionate and butyrate) was used to start up two sequencing batch reactors (SBRs) fed with either acetate or propionate as carbon source. These SBRs were then gradually acclimatised from anaerobic-aerobic to anaerobic-anoxic conditions and the denitrifying EBPR performance of the acetate and the propionate system were compared.

It was found that an SBR using propionate as carbon source was able to sustain a stable denitrifying EBPR system while the acetate SBR lost EBPR activity shortly after the elimination of the aerobic phase. The presence of GAOs, as monitored through chemical analyses, did not seem to be the cause for the acetate SBR collapse. The microbial populations of both SBRs were monitored by fluorescence in situ hybridisation, which confirmed that PAOs were dominant and only few GAOs were present in both the acetate and the propionate reactor.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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