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This research seeks to determine the effect of copper stress on ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in an activated sludge wastewater treatment process. Wastewater bioreactors were perturbed with copper pulses, allowed to recover, and then perturbed again to determine the effect of repeated
copper stress on the microbial community. The effluent ammonia concentration increased briefly in the perturbed reactors but recovered within one day after the initial copper exposure. During the second copper perturbation, the effluent ammonia concentration increased much less than it had
during the first perturbation, indicating higher copper tolerance of the microbial community with respect to ammonia oxidizing activity. This was confirmed by batch experiments in which lower inhibition levels were observed for biomass that had experienced a previous copper exposure. Heterotrophic
activities in the microbial communities were also inhibited by copper and took more than a month to recover to the same activity as observed for the control.
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