Activated sludge aeration tanks frequently suffer from the formation of a stable foam on their surfaces, a problem which results in increased operating costs and reduces performance. Current control strategies are often unsuccessful, mainly because of a lack of understanding of the microbes involved, and often employ expensive and environmentally undesirable procedures, such as the addition of chemicals. Here we have attempted to better understand the mechanism(s) involved in foam formation. We have investigated the possible relationship between the mycolic acid content in a Rhodococcus rhodochrous strain isolated from foam, its cell surface hydrophobicity (CSH) and ability to form stable foam. Results show that mycolic acid composition is not the only contributor to CSH, nor is the CSH the only factor responsible for foam formation and stabilisation. Other possible explanations for mechanisms of foaming and ways to control it are addressed.

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