A four-stage rotating biological contactor (RBC) was designed and operated to treat synthetic wastewater containing 1,000 mg/l chemical oxygen demand (COD) and 112 mg/l NH4+-N. A mixed culture bacterial biofilm was developed consisting of a heterotrophic bacterium Paracoccus pantotrophus, nitrifiers and other heterotrophs. Applying the peculiar characteristics of P. pantotrophus of simultaneous heterotrophic nitrification and aerobic denitrification, high simultaneous removal of carbon and nitrogen could be achieved in the fully aerobic RBC. The microbial community structure of the RBC biofilm was categorized based on the nitrate reduction, biochemical reactions, gram staining and morphology. The presence of P. pantotrophus within the RBC biofilm was confirmed with an array of biochemical tests. Isolates from the four stages of RBC were grouped into complete denitrifiers, incomplete denitrifiers and non-denitrifiers. This categorization showed a higher relative abundance of P. pantotrophus in the first stage as compared with subsequent stages, in which other nitrifiers and heterotrophs were significantly present. High total nitrogen removal of upto 68% was in conformity with observations made using microbial categorization and biochemical tests. The high relative abundance of P. pantotrophus in the biofilm revealed that it could successfully compete with other heterotrophs and autotrophic nitrifiers in mixed bacterial biomass.

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