The effectiveness of enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) systems is directly affected by the competition of polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs) and glycogen accumulating organisms (GAOs). This study investigated the short-term effects of carbon source on PAO and GAO performance. The tests were designed to clearly determine the impact of volatile fatty acid (VFA) composition on the performance of two types of biomass, one enriched for PAOs and the other for GAOs. The two populations were enriched in separate reactors using identical operating conditions and very similar influent compositions with acetate as the sole carbon source. The only difference was that a very low level of phosphorus was present in the influent to the GAO reactor. The abundance of PAOs and GAOs was quantified using fluorescence in-situ hybridisation. The results clearly show that there are some very distinctive differences between PAOs and GAOs in their ability to utilise different carbon substrates. While both are able to take up acetate rapidly and completely, the GAOs are far slower at consuming propionate than the PAOs during short-term substrate changes. This provides a potentially highly valuable avenue to influence the competition between PAOs and GAOs. Other VFAs studied seem to be less usable in the short term by both PAOs and GAOs, as indicated by their much lower uptake rates.

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