Effect of acetate and propionate on the production and characterization of soluble microbial products (SMP) in aerobic granular sludge system
It is well known that soluble microbial products (SMP) derived from biological systems found in wastewater treatment plant effluent are responsible for chemical oxygen demand (COD). Aerobic granular sludge (AGS) is recognized as an efficient and innovative approach for wastewater treatment. Acetate and propionate as two dominant organic substances in wastewater need to be effectively removed before discharge. The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of acetate and propionate to interfere with the accumulation, molecular weight (MW) distribution and composition of SMP in aerobic granular sludge (AGS) system using two identical sequencing batch reactors (SBR) named R1 and R2, respectively, thus reducing the COD. The results demonstrated that more SMP accumulated in R1 in presence of acetate compared to R2 treated with propionate. A positive correlation for SMP formation was detected as evidenced by aeration rates, but a negative correlation with hydraulic retention time (HRT). The MW distribution analysis suggested that small molecules (MW <3 kDa) were the dominant fraction of SMP in R1 and R2, accounting for 57–79% and 39–61%, respectively. In addition, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) demonstrated that esters, alkanes, alkenes and alcohols were the predominant low-MW SMP in R1 and R2. More peaks were present in R2 (61) than R1 (46). Esters were the predominant SMP (39%) in R1, while alkanes were the predominant SMP (31%) in R2. Further, microbial community analysis indicated that more α- and γ-Proteobacteria groups which readily utilize low-MW SMP were found in R2 compared to R1-granules which may have contributed to less SMP accumulated in R2. The abundant genera in the granules were Zoogloea and Azoarcus, in particular, a greater quantity of Azoarcus was detected in R2 than R1-granules, which may be associated with higher degradation of aromatics in SMP.