Sulfanilic acid (SA) is a toxic sulfonated aromatic amine commonly found in anaerobically treated azo dye contaminated effluents. Aerobic acclimatization of SA-degrading mixed microbial culture could lead to co-enrichment of ammonium-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) because of the concomitant release of ammonium from SA oxidation. To what extent the co-enriched AOB would affect SA oxidation at various ammonium concentrations was unclear. Here, a series of batch kinetic experiments were conducted to evaluate the effect of AOB on aerobic SA degradation in an acclimatized activated sludge culture capable of oxidizing SA and ammonium simultaneously. To account for the effect of AOB on SA degradation, allylthiourea was used to inhibit AOB activity in the culture. The results indicated that specific SA degradation rate of the mixed culture was negatively correlated with the initial ammonium concentration (0–93 mM, R2 = 0.99). The presence of AOB accelerated SA degradation by reducing the inhibitory effect of ammonium (≥10 mM). The Haldane substrate inhibition model was used to correlate substrate concentration (SA and ammonium) and oxygen uptake rate. This study revealed, for the first time, that AOB could facilitate SA degradation at high concentration of ammonium (≥10 mM) in an enriched activated sludge culture.

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