Thirteen anaerobic hybrid expanded granular sludge bed-anaerobic filter bioreactors were used for psychrophilic (15–18 °C) anaerobic digestion of a variety of synthetic and non-synthetic wastewaters, including: food-processing, dairy, aromatic- and aliphatic-containing and brewery discharges. Specific methanogenic activity assays were employed to assess temporal physiological activity dynamics. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism genetic fingerprinting and fluorescent in situ hybridization were used to monitor shifts in the structure of the microbial communities in the bioreactors in response to operating conditions. Treatment efficiencies obtained were comparable to previous mesophilic (37 °C) trials. Methanogenic activity developed under psychrophilic conditions and putative psychrophilic populations were detected within otherwise psychrotolerant mesophilic communities. Shifts in the population structure of archaeal (methanogenic) communities were more indicative of process disruption than bacterial communities. Biomolecular techniques were demonstrated as valuable tools for anaerobic wastewater treatment plant monitoring.

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