Ordinary heterotrophic organism (OHO) active biomass (ZBH) is a key parameter in models for activated sludge systems, which defines quantitatively the kinetic rates of relevant processes. However, ZBH has not been measured directly with consistent success: a simple respirometric batch test has provided varying correspondence between measured and theoretical concentrations. In this paper, the batch test is applied to mixed liquors drawn from well defined anoxic/aerobic parent systems at 10 and 20 d sludge ages, with consistent but poor correspondence between measured and theoretical values. In contrast, aerobic digestion batch tests on the same mixed liquors give good correspondences. It is concluded that the differences between theoretical and batch test measured values are due to the batch test method itself and its interpretation. It is found that the batch test conditions (particularly the substrate/ZBH ratio) influence the kinetic constants derived from the data, and hence the ZBH estimate. Two kinetic models with two competing OHO populations, a fast and a slow grower, are developed and applied to the batch tests and parent systems. The first model is based on kinetic selection only, while the second includes additional metabolic selection. Both models can account for the observations in the batch tests, but the second provides greater consistency between simulations of the parent systems and batch tests.

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