A continuous flow pilot plant with a mixed population of activated sludge was used to investigate the influence of temperatures between 5°C and 20°C on the efficiency of enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) and on the phosphorus release and uptake mechanisms. Bacterial strains, isolated at different temperatures, were tested for their ability to store polyphosphate. At temperatures of between 15°C and 20°C the uptake of phosphate in the aerobic reactor was correlated directly with the quantity of phosphate released in the anaerobic zone. Mainly aerobic microorganisms were isolated. In batch tests they showed comparatively high polyphosphate storing capacities. There was no indication that Acinetobacter sp. played a dominant role in the processes of EBPR. A drop in temperature to 10°C and then to 5°C had no significant influence on the efficiency of EBPR. In spite of a clearly reduced release of phosphate in the anaerobic zone, the bacterial uptake of phosphate reached unchanged high levels. Because of reduced nitrification at low temperatures, making the anoxic zone into an additional anaerobic zone, facultative anaerobic microorganisms accumulated in the microbial population. They showed the best abilities to store polyphosphate under these conditions, whereas aerobic bacteria lost their polyphosphate storing capacities.

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