Over a period of 227 days properties of activated sludge grown in an aequencing batch reactor (SBR) operated under stable conditions were analyzed. Settling properties (sludge volume index (SVI)) of the activated sludge were compared with on-line measurements of floc size and size distribution obtained by using a laser light scattering technique (Malvern Mastersizer/S, Malvern, UK), and with measurements of microbial community dynamics analyzed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) patterns of 16S rRNA genes. In addition, microscopical observations were used to confirm the results. Three distinct stages in the SBR evolution were observed. In the first stage the structural floc properties showed predominant presence of floc-forming bacteria in the activated sludge. A good correlation between floc size, settling properties and microbial community evolution was observed. The second stage showed a good balance between floc-forming and filamentous bacteria, with good settling properties and a highly dynamic community in the SBR. In the third stage, an increase in the filamentous bacteria, which became predominant in the system was observed. Again, a good correlation between settling properties and floc size distribution was obtained and a new dominant species was observed in the DGGE patterns, which can be assumed to be a filamentous organism.

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