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Influence of salinity cycles in bioreactor performance and microbial community structure of membrane-based tidal-like variable salinity wastewater treatment systems

Rodriguez-Sanchez, Alejandro, Leyva-Diaz, Juan Carlos, Muñoz-Palazon, Barbara, Poyatos, Jose Manuel, Gonzalez-Lopez, Jesus
Environmental science and pollution research international 2019 v.26 no.1 pp. 514-527
Nitrobacter, Parvibaculum, Rhodanobacter, Thiothrix, biochemical oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, community structure, electrical conductivity, eukaryotic cells, membrane bioreactors, microbial communities, nitrogen content, salinity, sodium chloride, total solids, wastewater, wastewater treatment
A membrane bioreactor and two hybrid moving bed bioreactor-membrane bioreactors were operated for the treatment of variable salinity wastewater, changing in cycles of 6-h wastewater base salinity and 6-h maximum salinity (4.5 and 8.5 mS cm⁻¹ electric conductivity, which relate to 2.4 and 4.8 g L⁻¹ NaCl, respectively), under different hydraulic retention times (6, 9.5, and 12 h) and total solids concentrations (2500 and 3500 mg L⁻¹). The evaluation of the performance of the systems showed that COD removal performance was unaffected by salinity conditions, while BOD₅ and TN removals were significantly higher in the low-salinity scenario. The microbial community structure showed differences with respect to salinity conditions for Eukarya, suggesting their higher sensitivity for salinity with respect to Prokarya, which were similar at both salinity scenarios. Nevertheless, the intra-OTU distribution of consistently represented OTUs of Eukarya and Prokarya was affected by the different salinity maximums. Multivariate redundancy analyses showed that several genera such as Amphiplicatus (0.01–5.90%), Parvibaculum (0.27–1.19%), Thiothrix (0.30–1.19%), Rhodanobacter (2.81–5.85%), Blastocatella (0.21–2.01%), and Nitrobacter (0.80–0.99%) were positively correlated with BOD₅ and TN removal, and the ecological roles of these were proposed. All these genera were substantially more represented under low-salinity conditions (10–500% higher relative abundance), demonstrating that they might be of importance for the treatment of variable salinity wastewater. Evaluation of Eukarya OTUs showed that many of them lack a consistent taxonomic classification, which highlights the lack of knowledge of the diversity and ecological role of Eukaryotes in saline wastewater treatment processes. The results obtained will be of interest for future design and operation of salinity wastewater treatment systems particularly because little is known on the effect of variable salinity conditions in wastewater treatment.