Microbial communities involved in biological ammonium removal from coal combustion wastewaters – Environmental Microbiology (2013)

Vishnivetskaya TA, Fisher LS, Brodie GA, Phelps TJ


The efficiency of a novel integrated treatment system for biological removal of ammonium, nitrite, nitrate, and heavy metals from fossil power plant effluent was evaluated. Microbial communities were analyzed using bacterial and archaeal 16S rRNA gene clone libraries (Sanger sequences) and 454 pyrosequencing technology. While seasonal changes in microbial community composition were observed, the significant (P = 0.001) changes in bacterial and archaeal communities were consistent with variations in ammonium concentration. Phylogenetic analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences revealed an increase of potential ammonium-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), NitrosomonasNitrosococcusPlanctomycetes, and OD1, in samples with elevated ammonium concentration. Other bacteria, such as NitrospiraNitrococcusNitrobacterThiobacillusε-ProteobacteriaFirmicutes, and Acidobacteria, which play roles in nitrification and denitrification, were also detected. The AOB oxidized 56 % of the ammonium with the concomitant increase in nitrite and ultimately nitrate in the trickling filters at the beginning of the treatment system. Thermoprotei within the phylum Crenarchaeota thrived in the splitter box and especially in zero-valent iron extraction trenches, where an additional 25 % of the ammonium was removed. The potential ammonium-oxidizing Archaea (AOA) (Candidatus Nitrosocaldus) were detected towards the downstream end of the treatment system. The design of an integrated treatment system consisting of trickling filters, zero-valent iron reaction cells, settling pond, and anaerobic wetlands was efficient for the biological removal of ammonium and several other contaminants from wastewater generated at a coal burning power plant equipped with selective catalytic reducers for nitrogen oxide removal.

Access Full Publication


Vishnivetskaya TA, Fisher LS, Brodie GA, Phelps TJ. Microbial communities involved in biological ammonium removal from coal combustion wastewaters. Microb Ecol. 2013 Jul;66(1):49-59. doi: 10.1007/s00248-012-0152-5. Epub 2013 Jan 13. PMID: 23314095.