Since 2006 more than 50 Danish full-scale wastewater treatment plants with nutrient removal have been investigated in a project called ‘The Microbial Database for Danish Activated Sludge Wastewater Treatment Plants with Nutrient Removal (MiDas-DK)’. Comprehensive sets of samples have been collected, analyzed and associated with extensive operational data from the plants. The community composition was analyzed by quantitative fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) supported by 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and deep metagenomics. MiDas-DK has been a powerful tool to study the complex activated sludge ecosystems, and, besides many scientific articles on fundamental issues on mixed communities encompassing nitrifiers, denitrifiers, bacteria involved in P-removal, hydrolysis, fermentation, and foaming, the project has provided results that can be used to optimize the operation of full-scale plants and carry out trouble-shooting. A core microbial community has been defined comprising the majority of microorganisms present in the plants. Time series have been established, providing an overview of temporal variations in the different plants. Interestingly, although most microorganisms were present in all plants, there seemed to be plant-specific factors that controlled the population composition thereby keeping it unique in each plant over time. Statistical analyses of FISH and operational data revealed some correlations, but less than expected. MiDas-DK ( will continue over the next years and we hope the approach can inspire others to make similar projects in other parts of the world to get a more comprehensive understanding of microbial communities in wastewater engineering.

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