The impact of operational strategies on the performance of a photo-EBPR system

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A novel Phototrophic - Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal (Photo-EBPR) system, consisting of a consortium of photosynthetic organisms and polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs), was studied in this work. A sequencing batch reactor was fed with a mixture of acetate and propionate (75%–25%) and subjected to dark/light cycles in order to select a photo-EBPR system containing PAOs and photosynthetic organisms, the latter likely providers of oxygen to the system. The results from the selection period (stage 1) showed that the photo-EBPR culture was capable of performing P release in the dark and P uptake in the presence of light, under limited oxygen concentrations. During the optimization period, the aeration period, which was initially provided at the end of the light phase, was gradually reduced until a non-aerated system was achieved, while the light intensity was increased. After optimization of the operational conditions, the selected consortium of photosynthetic organisms/PAOs showed high capacity of P removal in the light phase in the absence of air or other electron acceptor. A net P removal of 34 ± 3 mg-P/L was achieved, with a volumetric P removal rate of 15 ± 2 mg-P/L.h, and 79 ± 8% of P removal from the system. Also, in limiting oxygen conditions, the P uptake rate was independent of the PHA consumption, which demonstrates that the organisms obtained energy for P removal from light. These results indicated that a photo-EBPR system can be a potential solution for P removal with low COD/P ratios and in the absence of air, prospecting the use of natural sunlight as illumination, which would reduce the costs of EBPR operation regarding aeration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-198
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR)
  • Low energy
  • Photosynthetic organisms
  • Phototrophs
  • Polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs)


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