Elucidation of the microbial community structure within a laboratory scale activated sludge process using molecular techniques
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The microbial community present in a laboratory-scale modified Ludzack-Ettinger activated sludge system was investigated using a combination of novel molecular techniques. The parent system was investigated for a duration of one year and samples were taken at regular intervals to determine the profile and structure of the microbial community present within the anoxic and aerobic zones of the MLE system. The combination of molecular techniques included fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH) and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). FISH was performed using oligonucleotide probes, which were complementary to conserved regions of the rRNA for the alpha, beta and gamma subclasses of the gram negative family Proteobacteria as well as a group-specific HGC oligonucleotide probe as a representative of the gram positive actinomycetes branch. The total eubacteria present was determined using the EUB oligonucleotide probes, EUB388, EUB388-II and EUB388-III. The DGGE analysis of PCR-amplified 16S rDNA gene segments was used to examine the microbial community profile in the anoxic and aerobic zones. The profile for each of the zones revealed a number of consistent bands throughout the duration of the laboratory-scale process. However, the profiles obtained suggested that a diverse microbial community existed within the aerobic and anoxic zones. The bands also indicated the presence of dominant and less dominant species of bacteria. Hybridisations obtained from the FISH analyses indicated that the alpha and gamma subclasses were predominant within the anoxic zone and the aerobic zone showed a dominance of the beta subclass of Proteobacteria. The steady state behaviour of the MLE system was confirmed with the results obtained from COD, TKN, nitrates and OUR analytical tests. COD and nitrogen mass balances were conducted to confirm the acceptance of the results obtained for each batch as an indication of the system performance for the MLE model. Nitrogen mass balances indicated an upset in the nitrogen levels for batches two and seven.