The influence of an industrial waste water containing partly toxic and poorly biodegradable substances on an autotrophic biocenosis was investigated. Nitrifying bacteria were identified using fluorescently-labeled oligonucleotide probes and epifluorescence microscopy. Industrial waste water was used untreated and after ozonation to simulate the effects of indirect discharge to municipal waste water treatment plants. Results were compared to those obtained with acetate as a non-toxic and easily biodegradable substance and a mixture of acetate and pyruvate. The degradation of ammonium and the formation of nitrite and nitrate were measured and compared with the results obtained by fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH). The untreated waste water, containing higher amounts of refractory substances, disturbed nitrification, which was restored after reaching higher elimination of the organic substances. However, it showed only minor effects on the bacterial composition. These findings were similar to those reached by the addition of acetate and pyruvate. On the other hand, the ozonated waste water, showing higher toxicity than the untreated waste water, caused a stabilization in nitrification, but the composition of the population of ammonium-oxidizing bacteria changed significantly. In all cases, nitrite-oxidizing bacteria were only little affected both in activity and abundance.

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