Enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) normally occurs together with nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). In recent years, efforts have been devoted to remove nitrogen via the nitrite pathway (oxidation of ammonia to nitrite and reduction of nitrite to nitrogen gas without going through nitrate), reducing the requirement for carbon and oxygen in the plant. However nitrite and free nitrous acid (FNA), the protonated species of nitrite, have been shown to cause EBPR deterioration under certain concentrations. This study provides a direct comparison between the different levels of FNA inhibition in the aerobic processes of polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs) and glycogen accumulating organisms (GAOs) by reviewing the studies published in this area. Also, new data is presented assessing the FNA effect on the anaerobic metabolism of these two groups of bacteria. Overall, FNA has shown inhibitory effects on most of the processes involved in the metabolism of PAOs and GAOs. However, the inhibition-initiation levels are different between different processes and, even more importantly between the two groups. In general, PAOs appear to be more affected than GAOs at the same level of FNA, thus giving GAOs competitive advantage over PAOs in EBPR systems when nitrite is present.

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