Activated sludge treatment of nutrient-deficient wastes may lead to severe slime formation and consequent biomass separation difficulties. The purpose of this paper has been to show that bioreactor arrangement essentially influences the manner of biological excess carbon removal. In a comparative lab-scale experiment two differently arranged activated sludge systems were operated simultaneously: an aerated CSTR with an aerobic selector and an aerated CSTR with an anaerobic selector. The seed derived from an anaerobic/aerobic activated sludge plant of a winery. The model wastewater contained wine, sugar and acetic acid as organic carbon sources and lacked nutrients regarding both N and P, similarly to the influent of the full-scale plant.
During the 52 days of the experiment the SVI values of the fully aerated system increased up to 600–800 cm3 g−1 whereas those of the anaerobic/aerobic system remained below 250 cm3 g−1. The SVI values showed a strict correlation with the amount of extracellular polysaccharides. In the anaerobic/aerobic experimental system, the high (40% of MLSS) intracellular polysaccharide content of the seed could be maintained. Besides the analytical data, also the microscopic observations of the biomass structure referred to the presence of glycogen accumulating organisms in both the lab- and full-scale anaerobic/aerobic systems.