Sulphate-rich wastewaters can be generated due to (i) use of saline water as secondary-quality water for sanitation in urban environments (e.g. toilet flushing), (ii) discharge of industrial effluents, (iii) sea and brackish water infiltration into the sewage and (iv) use of chemicals, which contain sulphate, in drinking water production. In the presence of an electron donor and absence of oxygen or nitrate, sulphate can be reduced to sulphide. Sulphide can inhibit microbial processes in biological wastewater treatment systems. The objective of the present study was to assess the effects of sulphide concentration on the anaerobic and aerobic physiology of polyphosphate-accumulating organisms (PAOs). For this purpose, a PAO culture, dominated by Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis clade I (PAO I), was enriched in a sequencing batch reactor (SBR) fed with acetate and propionate. To assess the direct inhibition effects and their reversibility, a series of batch activity tests were conducted during and after the exposure of a PAO I culture to different sulphide concentrations. Sulphide affected each physiological process of PAO I in a different manner. At 189 mg TS-S/L, volatile fatty acid uptake was 55% slower and the phosphate release due to anaerobic maintenance increased from 8 to 18 mg PO4-P/g VSS/h. Up to 8 mg H2S-S/L, the decrease in aerobic phosphorus uptake rate was reversible (Ic60). At higher concentrations of sulphide, potassium (>16 mg H2S-S/L) and phosphate (>36 mg H2S-S/L) were released under aerobic conditions. Ammonia uptake, an indicator of microbial growth, was not observed at any sulphide concentration. This study provides new insights into the potential failure of enhanced biological phosphorus removal sewage plants receiving sulphate- or sulphide-rich wastewaters when sulphide concentrations exceed 8 mg H2S-S/L, as PAO I could be potentially inhibited.
- Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis clade I
- Enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR)
- Poly-phosphate-accumulating organisms (PAOs)
- Sulphide inhibition