In this study, the microbial community structure and carbon source utilisation profile of activated sludge samples collected from full-scale municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) operated under different conditions were characterised and compared, respectively, using terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis and Biolog assay. Samples were collected from each biological treatment tank of six conventional activated sludge, two anaerobic–oxic, two anaerobic–anoxic–oxic, and one step-aeration processes in eight full-scale WWTPs in Osaka, Japan. Results of the T-RFLP analysis of eubacterial 16S rDNA showed that microbial communities of activated sludge differed greatly among samples, and that they were affected by process-based operational conditions. In contrast, the carbon source utilisation profiles of activated sludge samples were mutually similar, but appeared to be influenced slightly by aerated conditions at each reaction tank. Similar carbon source utilisation profiles among all samples suggest that the activated sludge community possesses functions that are necessary for wastewater treatment even if the phylogenetic composition is different. Different results from the T-RFLP analysis and Biolog assay suggest that the phylogenetic composition of microbial community might not necessarily reflect the wastewater treatment functions of the activated sludge.
Keywords: activated sludge, biolog, terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism, wastewater treatment plant