Effect of pH reduction on polyphosphate- and glycogen-accumulating organisms in enhanced biological phosphorus removal processes

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We investigated the effect of pH reduction on polyphosphate-accumulating organisms (PAOs) and glycogen-accumulating organisms (GAOs) in the enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) process. Three laboratory-scale EBPR reactors were used. Initially, the reactors were operated at pH 7.9±0.1 and 6.5±0.1, and after 27 days, the pH was lowered to 6.5±0.1 and 6.0±0.1, respectively. PAOs and GAOs were monitored using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction and/or fluorescent in situ hybridization. Phosphorus removal performance was also monitored. During the start-up period, high EBPR activity and increases in Candidatus ‘Accumulibacter phosphatis’ (Accumulibacter) and Candidatus ‘Competibacter phosphatis’ (Competibacter) were observed. In all runs, Accumulibacter and Competibacter were the dominant PAO and GAO, respectively. Accumulibacter began to decline 10–18 days after lowering the pH to 6.5±0.1. After lowering the pH to 6.0±0.1, the Accumulibacter population decreased immediately. Contrastingly, an obvious adverse effect of pH reduction on Competibacter was not observed. In all runs, EBPR activity began to deteriorate 6–12 days after Accumulibacter decline began. Thus, our results show that pH reduction had an immediate or delayed effect on Accumulibacter decline. Moreover, the time lag between the start of Accumulibacter decline and that of EBPR deterioration implies that EBPR deterioration by pH reduction went through unknown process.

Keywords: Candidatus ‘Accumulibacter phosphatis’, Candidatus ‘Competibacter phosphatis’, enhanced biological phosphorus removal, glycogen-accumulating organism, pH, phosphate-accumulating organism

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