A comprehensive study of the identity and population dynamics of filamentous bacteria in five Polish full-scale municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) with nutrients removal had been carried out for 2 years. A quantitative culture-independent, molecular method – fluorescence in situ hybridization – was applied to evaluate the structure of different filamentous bacteria populations and their temporal variations. Activated sludge was examined for the abundance of 11 groups of filamentous bacteria. On average, filaments constituted 28% of all bacteria. All samples presented a low diversity of probe-defined filamentous bacteria, usually with significant domination of Chloroflexi (with distinction to types 1851, 0803 and others) and/or Microthrix (14% and 7% of EUBmix, respectively). Haliscomenobacter hydrossis, Mycolata, Skermania piniformis and TM7 were less abundant, whereas Curvibacter, Thiothrix/021N and family Gordonia have not been detected in any of the samples. The tested WWTPs showed similarity among species found and differences in their abundance. The composition of filamentous populations was rather stable in each plant and similar to those found in other European countries. Little differences between plants were shown by multivariate analysis of variance in terms of Chloroflexi and Microthrix. No significant general correlations have been found with Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient and Spearman's rank correlation coefficient. Medium correlation strength between the presence of different filaments was recorded only for Microthrix and Skermania piniformis. Deleterious effect on settling properties of sludge (measured as sludge volume index) was found only for abundance of Microthrix; a strong linear correlation was recorded between them. However, no other correlations with wastewater and operational data were revealed.

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