In various activated sludge systems, the biomass grows under transient (unbalanced) conditions and the storage response (formation of internal polymers as the fastest adaptation to the changing environment) becomes important. Till now the role of storage on population dynamics has been deeply investigated under anaerobic (EBPR processes) or aerobic (bulking control) conditions. Little attention has been given to processes including anoxic conditions even though in many of them storage phenomena are likely to occur (anoxic selectors, nitrogen removal processes with addition of an external source of readily biodegradable COD or with aerobic contact/anoxic stabilization). For these reasons, the aim of the present work was to investigate storage and succeeding use of stored products under anoxic and mixed (anoxic/aerobic) conditions. Batch experiments have shown that a mixed culture selected under aerobic conditions and intermittent feed (acetate-limited medium), was also able to take up acetate (90–100 mgCOD/gCOD h) and store it as PHB (35–40 mgCOD/gCOD h) under anoxic conditions. After acetate depletion, the stored PHB was used for growth and maintenance. The NUR on acetate in the presence of storage was 20 mgN/gVSS h (which corresponded to a COD removal of 6.9 mgCOD/mgN) while it dropped to 10–3 mgN/gVSS h in the “endogenous phase” when denitrification was on the stored PHB. The presence of aerobic conditions instead of anoxic ones had a major positive effect on the rate and yield of PHB storage while it had only a minor effect on the rate of PHB consumption. The latter observation can be explained by assuming that the hydrolysis of the stored product is the rate limiting step of the “endogenous” metabolism and that the hydrolysis rate is not highly dependent on aerobic-anoxic conditions. Cross-comparison of PHB storage and consumption under aerobic/anoxic conditions made it possible to determine that, in the particular mixed culture under investigation, all aerobic heterotrophs able to store were also able to denitrify.

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