Bromate is a carcinogenic disinfection by-product formed from bromide during ozonation or advanced oxidation of drinking water. We previously observed bromate reduction in a hydrogen-based, denitrifying hollow fiber membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR). In this research, we investigated the potential existence of specialized bromate-reducing bacteria. Using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), we compared the microbial ecology of two denitrifying MBfRs, one amended with nitrate as the electron acceptor and the other with nitrate plus bromate. The DGGE results showed that bromate exerted a selective pressure for a putative, specialized bromate-reducing bacterium, which developed a strong presence only in the reactor with bromate. To gain further insight into the capabilities of specialized, bromate-reducing bacteria, we explored bromate reduction in a control MBfR without any primary electron acceptors. A grown biofilm in the control MBfR reduced bromate without previous exposure, but the rate of reduction decreased over time, especially after perturbations resulting in biomass loss. The decrease in bromate reduction may have been the result of the toxic effects of bromate. We also used batch tests of the perchlorate-reducing pure culture, Dechloromonas sp. PC1 to test bromate reduction and growth. Bromate was reduced without measurable growth. Based on these results, we speculate bromate's selective pressure for the putative, specialized BRB observed in the DGGE was not growth related, but possibly based on resistance to bromate toxicity.

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