Exhaust air treatment has gained importance as an essential factor in intensive livestock areas due to the rising emissions in the environment. Wet filter walls of multi-stage exhaust air treatment systems precipitate gaseous ammonia and dust particles from exhaust air in washing water. Microbial communities in the biomass developed in the washing water of five large-scale exhaust air treatment units of pig housing facilities, were investigated by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and 16S rDNA sequence analyses. No “standard” nitrifying bacteria were found in the washing water. Instead mainly α-Proteobacteria, aggregating β- and χ-Proteobacteria, a large number of Actinobacteria, as well as individual Planctomycetales and Crenarchaeota were detected after more than twelve months' operation. The main Proteobacteria species present were affiliated to the families Alcaligenaceae, Comamonadaceae and Xanthomonadaceae. Furthermore, we investigated the consumption of inorganic nitrogen compounds in the washing water of one exhaust air treatment unit during a fattening period with and without pH control. Maintaining the pH at 6.0 resulted in a ca. fivefold higher ammonium concentration and a ca. fourfold lower concentration of oxidized nitrogen compounds after the fattening period was finished.

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