The wastewater generated from the processes of recovering precious metals from industrial wastes contains high concentrations of acids such as nitric acid and of salts. Biological nitrogen removal from this wastewater was attempted by using a circulating bioreactor system equipped with an anoxic packed bed or an anoxic fluidized bed and an aerobic three-phase fluidized bed. The system was found to effectively remove nitrogen from the diluted wastewater (T-N; 1,000–4,000 mg litre−1). The microbial population structure of activated sludge in an anoxic reactor was analyzed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of PCR-amplified 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) fragments. DGGE analysis under different operating conditions demonstrated the presence of some distinguishable bands in the separation pattern, which were most likely derived from many different species constituting the microbial communities. Furthermore, the population diversity varied in accordance with the nitrate-loading rate, water temperature and reactor condition. Some major DGGE bands were excised, reamplified and directly sequenced. It was revealed that the dominant population in the anoxic reactor were affiliated with the β subclass of the class Proteobacteria.

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