Previous research has shown that alternated anaerobic/aerobic conditions are effective in removing phosphorus from wastewater using a biofilter system. However, few studies have been conducted on the features of polyphosphate (poly-P) accumulating organisms (PAOs) in biofilm on phosphorus removal. This study investigated the characteristics of the phosphorus removal mechanism in various hydraulic loads and anaerobic/aerobic time ratios using a sequential batch biofilter reactor. The storage and release of intracellular inclusions, especially polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) and poly-P, would be an important factor for phosphorus removal. Under different operating conditions, total phosphorus removal was always determined by accumulation of PHAs and phosphorus release under the anaerobic phase. The PHA accumulation under the anaerobic phase was always in proportion to the biofilm phosphorus content under aerobic conditions. The result shows PAOs activity was closely related to PHA accumulation. However, the PHA accumulation under the anaerobic phase would be dependent on the hydrolysis of the complex carbon source into short chain fatty acids (SCFA). The result would be demonstrated by the simple carbon source effect. The effect of the An/Ox time ratio on TP removal was significant. Shorter anaerobic time would result in insufficient phosphorus release and greater time would result in inactive PAOs. The appropriate An/Ox time ratio was suggested as 1/2. Comparisons of the phosphorus removal characteristics between biofilm and suspended growth under the same growth conditions are discussed in detail.

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