Culturing bacteria from activated sludge with enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) has strongly implicated Acinetobacter with the process. However, using fluorescent in-situ hybridisation (FISH) probing to analyse microbial populations, we have shown evidence opposing this widespread belief. We describe the phosphorus (P) removing performance and microbial population analyses of sludges obtained in a laboratory scale EBPR reactor. Two sludges with extremely high P removing capabilities were examined, the P content of these sludges was 8.6% (P sludge) and 12.3% (S sludge) of the MLSS. Identification of bacteria using FISH probing indicated both sludges were dominated by microbes from the beta proteobacteria and high mol% G+C Gram positive bacteria. Acinetobacter could make up only a small proportion of the cells in these sludges. Sludge with extremely poor P removal (P content of 1.5%, referred to as T sludge) was then generated by reducing the P in the influent. Bacteria resembling the G-bacteria became abundant in this sludge and these were identified using FISH probing. The anaerobic transformations of the T and P sludges correlated well with that of the non-EBPR and EBPR biological models respectively, indicating that bacteria in the T sludge have the potential to inhibit P removal in EBPR systems.

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