Spatiotemporal succession of phosphorous accumulating biofilms during the first year of establishment
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionWater Science and Technology. 2023, 88 (2), 381-391. 10.2166/wst.2023.214
Many wastewater treatment plants are dependent on the utilization of microorganisms in biofilms. Our knowledge about the establishment of these biofilms is limited, particular with respect to biofilms involved in enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR). These biofilms rely on polyphosphate-accumulating organisms (PAOs), requiring alternating oxic and anaerobic conditions for phosphorous uptake. This challenge has been solved using the Hias process, which combines moving-bed biofilm-reactor (MBBR) technology with physical transfer of biofilm-carriers from oxic to anaerobic zones. We combined biofilm fractionation with temporal analyses to unveil the establishment in the Hias process. A stable phosphorous removal efficiency of >95% was reached within 16 weeks of operation. Phosphorus removal, however, was not correlated with the establishment of known PAOs. The biofilms seemed associated with an outer microbiota layer with rapid turnover and an inner layer with a slow expansion. The inner layer showed an overrepresentation of known PAOs. In conclusion, our spatiotemporal analyses of phosphorous accumulating biofilm establishment lead to a new model for biofilm growth, while the mechanisms for phosphorous removal remain largely unresolved.