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Microbial Community Structures in Foaming and Nonfoaming Full-Scale Wastewater Treatment Plants

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A survey of full-scale activated-sludge plants in Illinois revealed that filamentous foaming is a widespread problem in the state, and that the causes and consequences of foaming control strategies are not fully understood. To link microbial community structure to foam occurrence, microbial populations in eight foaming and nine nonfoaming full-scale activated-sludge systems were quantified using oligonucleotide hybridization probes targeting the ribosomal RNA (rRNA) of the mycolata; Gordonia spp.; Gordonia amarae; "Candidatus Microthrix parvicella"; the α-, β-, and γ-subclasses of the Proteobacteria, and members of the Cytophaga-Flavobacteria. Parallel measurements of microbial population abundance using hybridization of extracted RNA and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) showed that the levels of mycolata, particularly Gordonia spp., were higher in most foaming systems compared with nonfoaming systems. Fluorescence in situ hybridization and microscopy suggested the involvement of "Candidatus Microthrix parvicella" and Skermania piniformis in foam formation in other plants. Finally, high numbers of "Candidatus Microthrix parvicella" were detected by FISH in foam and mixed liquor samples of one plant, whereas the corresponding levels of rRNA were low. This finding implies that inactive "Candidatus Microthrix parvicella" cells (i.e., cells with low rRNA levels) can cause foaming.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2002

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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