Aerobic and methanogenic consortia were evaluated as inocula for laboratory scale denitrifying reactors, fed with a synthetic wastewater with acetate as the main electron donor. The denitrifying microflora of inocula and reactors was evaluated by specific denitrifying activity, enumeration and isolation of denitrifiers, which were screened by amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis. Reactor performance was monitored by COD and nitrate removal efficiencies and granule size. The aerobic sludge failed to form granules, probably due to the development of a filamentous, nitrate-reducing organism which was characterised by 16SrDNA sequencing as Bacillus cereus. The methanogenic sludge showed denitrifying activity and adapted very rapidly to denitrifying conditions in the two reactors seeded with granules of different sizes. Denitrifiers grew around the granules, increasing the specific denitrifying activity of the sludge over 10-fold. Exopolymer-forming organisms, belonging to the same species, were isolated from both reactors. Granule size increased during operation, but flotation of the aggregates, related to gas retention was observed.

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