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Effects of Long Exposure to Low Temperatures on Nitrifying Biofilm and Biomass in Wastewater Treatment

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Attached growth biological treatment systems are a promising solution to ammonia removal in cold-temperature climates. Environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) and confocal laser scanning microscopy in combination with fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) was used to investigate the effects of 4 months of exposure to 4 °C on nitrifying biofilm and biomass. These molecular and microscopic methods were modified to minimize loss of mass and distortion of in situ perspectives. Environmental scanning electron microscopy revealed that nitrifying biofilm did not exhibit significant changes in volume with exposure to 4 °C. Confocal laser scanning microscopy in combination with FISH showed that the number of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) cells present in the biofilm was statistically consistent during exposure to 4 °C. The RNA content of AOB cells remained sufficient for FISH enumeration. The number of nitrite-oxidizing bacteria cells remained steady during exposure to 4 °C; however, the RNA content of the cells appeared to decrease with exposure to 4 °C, thereby preventing their enumeration using FISH.
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Keywords: biofilm; biomass; cold temperature; environmental scanning electron microscopy; fluorescent in situ hybridization; nitrification; wastewater

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-04-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    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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