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Felföldi, T., Székely, A.J., Gorál, R., Barkács, K., Scheirich, G., András, J., Rácz, A., Márialigeti, K. 2010. Polyphasic bacterial community analysis of an aerobic activated sludge removing phenols and thiocyanate from coke plant effluent. Bioresource Technology, 101, 3406-3414.
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Biological purification processes are effective tools in the treatment of hazardous wastes such as toxic compounds produced in coal coking. In this study, the microbial community of a lab-scale activated sludge system treating coking effluent was assessed by cultivation-based (strain isolation and identification, biodegradation tests) and culture-independent techniques (sequence-aided T-RFLP, taxon-specific PCR). The results of the applied polyphasic approach showed a simple microbial community dominated by easily culturable heterotrophic bacteria. Comamonas badia was identified as the key microbe of the system, since it was the predominant member of the bacterial community, and its phenol degradation capacity was also proved. Metabolism of phenol, even at elevated concentrations (up to 1500 mg/L), was also presented for many other dominant (Pseudomonas, Rhodanobacter, Oligella) and minor (Alcaligenes, Castellaniella, Microbacterium) groups, while some activated sludge bacteria (Sphingomonas,Rhodopseudomonas) did not tolerate it even in lower concentrations (250 mg/L). In some cases, closely related strains showed different tolerance and degradation properties. Members of the genus Thiobacillus were detected in the activated sludge, and were supposedly responsible for the intensive thiocyanate biodegradation observed in the system. Additionally, some identified bacteria (e.g. C. badia and the Ottowia-related strains) might also have had a significant impact on the structure of the activated sludge due to their floc-forming abilities.

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