In the present study, a pilot-scale reactor incorporating polyvinyl alcohol gel beads as biomass carrier and operating in biological activated sludge mode (a combination of moving bed biofilm reactor (MBBR) and activated sludge) was investigated for the treatment of actual municipal wastewater. The results, during a monitoring period of 4 months, showed effective removal of chemical oxygen demand (COD), biological oxygen demand (BOD) and NH3-N at optimum conditions with 91%, ∼92% and ∼90% removal efficiencies, respectively. Sludge volume index (SVI) values of activated sludge varied in the range of 25–72 mL/g, indicating appreciable settling characteristics. Furthermore, soluble COD and BOD in the effluent of the pilot plant were reduced to levels well below discharge limits of the Punjab Pollution Control Board, India. A culture dependent method was used to enrich and isolate abundant heterotrophic bacteria in activated sludge. In addition to this, 16S rRNA genes analysis was performed to identify diverse dominant bacterial species in suspended and attached biomass. Results revealed that Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas sp. and Nitrosomonas communis played a significant role in biomass carrier, while Acinetobactor sp. were dominant in activated sludge of the pilot plant. Identification of ciliated protozoa populations rendered six species of ciliates in the plant, among which Vorticella was the most dominant.

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