Aluminium and iron chloride were added to a biological nutrient removal pilot plant (1,500 population equivalent) treating urban wastewater to investigate the control of Microthrix parvicella bulking and foaming by metallic salts. Monitoring plant performance over two 6-month periods showed a slight impact on the removal efficiencies. Addition of metallic salts (Me; aluminium or aluminium + iron) at a concentration of 41 mmol Me(kg MLSS·d) (MLSS: mixed liquor suspended solids) over 70 days allowed a stabilization of the diluted sludge volume index (DSVI), whereas higher dosages (94 mmol Me(kg MLSS·d) over 35 days or 137 mmol Me(kg MLSS·d) over 14 days induced a significant improvement of the settling conditions. Microscopic observations showed a compaction of biological aggregates with an embedding of filamentous bacteria into the flocs that is not specific to M. parvicella as bacteria from phylum Chloroflexi are embedded too. The quantitative polymerase chain reaction targeting M. parvicella further indicated a possible growth limitation in addition to the flocculation impact at the high dosages of metallic salts investigated. DSVI appeared to be correlated with the relative abundance of M. parvicella.

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