The aim of the work was to quantify the influence of the simultaneous presence of flocs and granules in the nitrifying activity in a sequencing batch airlift reactor (SBAR). The nitrification rate and oxygen limitation of flocs, granules and hybrid sludge was investigated using respirometric assays at different dissolved oxygen concentrations. The spatial distribution of Ammonium Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB) and Nitrite Oxidizing Bacteria (NOB) was investigated using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Results showed that the nitrification rate was much less sensitive to oxygen limitation in systems containing a fraction of flocs than in pure granular sludge. Ammonium Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB) were found to be distributed in similar quantities in flocs and granules whereas the Nitrite Oxidizing Bacteria (NOB) were located preferentially in granules. This study showed that the presence of flocs with granules could increase the robustness of the process to transitory reductions of aeration.
Keywords: DO concentration, granular sludge, hybrid sludge, nitrification