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Use of Molecular Tools to Identify Microbial Communities in a Full Scale Biotrickling Filter Treating Odors from a Municipal WWTP

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The use of biotrickling filters (BF) for municipal waste air treatment is an important and emerging application of cell immobilization technology. BFs utilize microbial cells that are attached to a medium inside the reactor, which then oxidize the odorous constituents to odorless compounds. Since the process relies almost completely on biological means, it is environmentally friendly and has a very low operating cost.

Most often BF technology is treated as a “black box” and little is known about the complex combination of different physic-chemical and biological phenomena comprising the process. In order to improve our understanding of the technology, it is essential to know the microorganisms responsible for the oxidation of the odor constituents present in municipal foul air streams.

Novel molecular biology tools and fingerprinting techniques are available to characterize microbial populations in BFs. These techniques have allowed microbial ecologists and environmental engineers to determine microbial community structures in environmental samples without the limitations of traditional approaches such as conventional morphological analyses (staining and microscopy), and culture-based techniques. The most common approaches used in bioremediation research are those based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of 16S rRNA genes.

In this study, the microbial ecology of a full scale, synthetic media BF system treating odors from a municipal sludge processing building was determined using PCR and Terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (T-RFLP) and cloning/sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. The results show that T-RFLP and cloning/sequencing can be effective tools to further the understanding of the complex microbial ecology inside BFs. Ultimately, such understanding can result in smaller, more efficient biotrickling reactors that effectively remove both inorganic and organic odors.
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Keywords: 16S rRNA; BFs; biological odor control; cloning; molecular tools

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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