Sulfide effects on the anaerobic metabolism of polyphosphate-accumulating organisms

Sondos A. Saad*, Laurens Welles, Carlos M. Lopez-Vazquez, Mark C.M. van Loosdrecht, Damir Brdjanovic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Sulfate rich wastewaters can be generated from industry, use of seawater in urban environments, or by saline water infiltration into the sewerage. Under anaerobic conditions sulfate can be converted to sulfide, which may affect micro-organisms performing biological nutrient removal. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of sulfide on the activity of polyphosphate-accumulating organisms (PAO) in the anaerobic stage of the enhanced biological phosphorus removal process (EBPR). In this regard, a highly enriched culture of PAO was exposed in short-term activity tests to a range of sulfide concentrations at different operational pH values. The PAO activity was mainly affected by un-dissociated H2S. The specific acetate uptake rate was inhibited by 50% at around 60 mg H2S.L−1. With increasing H2S concentrations, higher phosphate release rate to acetate uptake rate ratios were observed, possibly due to increased energy requirements for cell detoxification. Mathematical expressions were developed, which satisfactorily described the sulfide effects on the acetate uptake rate and phosphate release rate. The results show that, dependent on the pH, EBPR might be negatively affected by total sulfide concentrations exceeding 275 mg SO4.L−1 at pH 6.5 or 1200 mg SO4.L−1 at pH 7.8 mg SO4.L−1 or when freshwater is partially replaced by seawater more than 45% (pH 7.8) or 10% (pH 6.5) used as secondary quality water. The findings of this study imply that sulfide, which is commonly found in different type of wastewaters, affects the anaerobic metabolism of PAO and may play an important role in the process performance of treatment plants treating wastewaters with high sulfide content.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-77
Number of pages10
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Anaerobic
  • EBPR
  • Modelling
  • PAO
  • Sulfide inhibition
  • ‘Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis’


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