Abstract

Simultaneous nitrification and denitrification under low dissolved oxygen conditions is an energy-saving modification of the activated sludge process to achieve efficient nitrogen removal. Geographically distinct full-scale treatment plants are excellent platforms to address the links of microbial community with operating parameters. Mixed liquor samples were collected from a sequencing batch reactor plant, oxidation ditch plant, and step-feed activated sludge plant. Next-Generation Sequencing of the samples showed that the microbial communities were similar at the phylum level among the plants, being dominated by Proteobacteria. Microbial composition of functional groups was similar between the react fill and react phases of the sequencing batch reactors, among four sequencing batch reactors, and among four oxidation ditches. Nitrospira was the only identified genus of autotropic nitrifying bacteria with a relative abundance of 2.2–2.5% in the oxidation ditches and 0.4–0.7% at the other plants. Heterotrophic nitrifying–aerobic denitrifying bacteria were dominated by Dechloromonas with a relative abundance of 0.4–1.0%. Microbial community composition and nitrogen removal mechanisms were related to overall level and local zonation of dissolved oxygen, mixed liquor suspended solids concentration, nitrogen and organic loadings, and solids retention time. Low dissolved oxygen and low organic and nitrogen loadings favored growth of Nitrospira.

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