Coal Mine Wastewater Microbial Communities

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“Identification of the microbial community composition and structure of coal-mine wastewater treatment plants”



The wastewater from coal-mine industry varies greatly and is resistant to biodegradation for containing large quantities of inorganic and organic pollutants. Microorganisms in activated sludge are responsible for the pollutants’ removal, whereas the microbial community composition and structure are far from understood. In the present study, the sludges from five coal-mine wastewater treatment plants were collected and the microbial communities were analyzed by Illumina high-throughput sequencing. The diversities of these sludges were lower than that of the municipal wastewater treatment systems. The most abundant phylum was Proteobacteria ranging from 63.64% to 96.10%, followed by Bacteroidetes (7.26%), Firmicutes (5.12%), Nitrospira (2.02%), Acidobacteria (1.31%), Actinobacteria (1.30%) and Planctomycetes (0.95%). At genus level, Thiobacillus and Comamonas were the two primary genera in all sludges, other major genera included Azoarcus, Thauera, Pseudomonas, Ohtaekwangia, Nitrosomonas and Nitrospira. Most of these core genera were closely related with aromatic hydrocarbon degradation and denitrification processes. Identification of the microbial communities in coal-mine wastewater treatment plants will be helpful for wastewater management and control.


Ma, Q., Qu, Y. Y., Zhang, X. W., Shen, W. L., Liu, Z. Y., Wang, J. W., … Zhou, J. T. (2015). Identification of the microbial community composition and structure of coal-mine wastewater treatment plants.  Microbiological Research,  175, 1—5.



Interesting industrial perspective of wastewater. Paper applies some of the microbial community methods we have discussed in class.

Biogeochemical Cycling of Gold [Repost]

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“Bacterial biofilms on gold grains–implications for geomicrobial transformations of gold”


The biogeochemical cycling of gold (Au), i.e. its solubilization, transport and re-precipitation, leading to the (trans)formation of Au grains and nuggets has been demonstrated under a range of environmental conditions. Biogenic (trans)formations of Au grains are driven by (geo)biochemical processes mediated by distinct biofilm consortia living on these grains. This review summarizes the current knowledge concerning the composition and functional capabilities of Au-grain communities, and identifies contributions of key-species involved in Au-cycling. To date, community data are available from grains collected at 10 sites in Australia, New Zealand and South America. The majority of detected operational taxonomic units detected belong to the α-, β- and γ -Proteobacteria and the Actinobacteria. A range of organisms appears to contribute predominantly to biofilm establishment and nutrient cycling, some affect the mobilization of Au via excretion of Au-complexing ligands, e.g. organic acids, thiosulfate and cyanide, while a range of resident Proteobacteria, especially Cupriavidus metallidurans and Delftia acidovorans, have developed Au-specific biochemical responses to deal with Au-toxicity and reductively precipitate mobile Au-complexes. This leads to the biomineralization of secondary Au and drives the environmental cycle of Au.



Rea, M. A., Zammit, C. M., & Reith, F. (2016, June 1). Bacterial biofilms on gold grains-implications for geomicrobial transformations of gold.  FEMS Microbiology Ecology. Oxford University Press.




Gold- a precious metal, revered since antiquity, mined on every continent (except Antartica)- is important to society. Previously, gold was thought to be biologically inactive but this is now known to be untrue. Discover more about what microbes can do with gold.


Wastewater treatment: Bioremediation of Wastewater by Iron Oxide-Biochar Nanocomposites Loaded with Photosynthetic Bacteria


He, S., Zhong, L., Duan, J., Feng, Y., Yang, B., & Yang, L. (2017). Bioremediation of Wastewater by Iron Oxide-Biochar Nanocomposites Loaded with Photosynthetic Bacteria.  Frontiers in Microbiology,  8, 823.


It has been reported that bacteria-mediated degradation of contaminants is a practical and innocuous wastewater treatment. In addition, iron oxide nanoparticles (NP) are wastewater remediation agents with great potentials due to their strong adsorption capacity, chemical inertness,  and superparamagnetism. Therefore, a combination of NPs and microbes could produce a very desirable alternative to conventional wastewater treatment. For this purpose, we first prepared Fe3O4/biochar nano-composites, followed by loading photosynthetic bacteria (PSB) onto them. It was found that Fe3O4/biochar nano-composites exhibited a high adsorption capacity for PSB (5.45 × 109  cells/g). The efficiency of wastewater pollutants removal by this PSB/Fe3O4/biochar agent was then analyzed. Our results indicated that when loaded onto Fe3O4/biochar nano-composites, PSB’s nutrient removal capability was significantly enhanced (P  < 0.05). This agent removed 83.1% of chemical oxygen demand, 87.5% of NH4+, and 92.1% of PO43-  from the wastewater in our study. Our experiments also demonstrated that such composites are outstanding recyclable agents. Their nutrient removal capability remained effective even after five cycles. In conclusion, we found the PSB/Fe3O4/biochar composites as a very promising material for bioremediation in the wastewater treatment.


I chose this article because I am very interested in coupling biodegradation  with technology. I feel like the two should work together in order for us to find efficient  and safe ways to treat wastewater. The paper is also written very well and succinctly. They are very thorough in describing the problem and what they want to achieve with this research.

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Oil field wastewater treatment in Biological Aerated Filter by immobilized microorganisms

Zhao, X., Wang, Y., Ye, Z., Borthwick, A. G. L., & Ni, J. (2006). Oil field wastewater treatment in Biological Aerated Filter by immobilized microorganisms. Process Biochemistry, 41(7), 1475—1483.

Link to the article:


As an alternative to the conventional activated sludge (CAS) process, this paper investigates the use of B350M and B350 group microorganisms immobilized on carriers in a pair of Biological Aerated Filter (BAF) reactors to pre-treat oil field wastewater before desalination. By operating the biodegradation system for 142 days with a hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 4  h and volumetric load 1.07  kg COD (m3  d)−1  at last, the reactor immobilized with B350M achieved mean degradation efficiencies of 78% for total organic carbon (TOC) and 94% for oil, whereas that with B350 only reached 64% for TOC and 86% for oil. The influent wastewater contains organic substances from C13H28  to C32H66, and a total of 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The degradation efficiencies of PAHs in the BAF immobilized with B350M and B350 microorganisms are 90% and 84%, respectively. It is observed that the biological diversity of microorganisms in the reactor containing B350M (seven more strains of bacteria survive) is richer than in that containing B350. A large quantity of filamentous microorganisms developed in both reactors without causing foaming or bulking.


Wastewater from oil fields need to be treated before it is released into the environment, and in this paper, they  evaluate the capability of immobilized microorganisms to treat the oil field wastewater. I found their research to be very interesting and it is an important topic.

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Microbial ecology of denitrification in biological wastewater treatment

Citation:  Lu, H., K. Chandran, and D. Stensel. Microbial ecology of denitification in biological wastewater treatment. 2014. Water Research. 64:237-254.

Find the article here.  If you can’t access the article through this link, you can log into ScienceDirect with you UA credentials to get the full article for free.

And I am attaching the PDF here just in case:  1-s2.0-S0043135414004886-main


Abstract:  Globally, denitrification is commonly employed in biological nitrogen removal processes to enhance water quality. However, substantial knowledge gaps remain concerning the overall community structure, population dynamics and metabolism of different organic carbon sources. This systematic review provides a summary of current findings pertaining to the microbial ecology of denitrification in biological wastewater treatment processes. DNA fingerprinting-based analysis has revealed a high level of microbial diversity in denitrification reactors and highlighted the impacts of carbon sources in determining overall denitrifying community composition. Stable isotope probing, fluorescence  in situ  hybridization, microarrays and meta-omics further link community structure with function by identifying the functional populations and their gene regulatory patterns at the transcriptional and translational levels. This review stresses the need to integrate microbial ecology information into conventional denitrification design and operation at full-scale. Some emerging questions, from physiological mechanisms to practical solutions, for example, eliminating nitrous oxide emissions and supplementing more sustainable carbon sources than methanol, are also discussed. A combination of high-throughput approaches is next in line for thorough assessment of wastewater denitrifying community structure and function. Though denitrification is used as an example here, this synergy between microbial ecology and process engineering is applicable to other biological wastewater treatment processes.



This article sparked my interest mostly because we just finished talking about the nitrogen cycle, and this is a great practical example of denitrification in biological wastewater treatment.


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Wastewater treatment journal discussion

P.N. Lens, Poorter, M., Cronenberg, C., Verstraete, W. 1995. Sulfate reducing and methane producing bacteria in aerobic wastewater treatment systems. Elsevier 29:871-880.

A selection of aerobic biofilm reactors and activated sludge plants were investigated for the presence of methane producing bacteria (MPB) and sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB). Detection tests showed that acetotrophic and hydrogenotrophic MPB as well as lactate, acetate and propionate oxidizing SRB were present in all reactor types investigated, except in an activated sludge reactor aerated with pure oxygen. Methane production rates from acetate by biomass samples of aerobic reactors were less than 1% of the rates measured in anaerobic UASB sludge. The presence of SRB was independent of the reactor configuration, the organic loading and the influent sulfate concentration. Aerobic biofilms growing in a trickling filter packed with plastic carrier and in a rotating biological contactor contained between 5.7 × 107  to 1.1 × 108  CFU/g VS of lactate oxidizing SRB and showed a potential sulfate reduction rate using lactate as electron donor of about 10 mg SO2−4/g VS ·h. The latter is comparable to the values found in sludges from typical anaerobic wastewater treatment reactors. In activated sludges, SRB densities were some 103  time lower and the maximum sulfate reduction rate was  ca  3 times lower compared to the aerobic biofilm reactors. In biofilms, high sulfate reduction rates, in combination with the high sulfide removal rates (11.6 to 131.7 mg HS−/g VS ·h) suggest that  in situ  reoxidation of sulfide might sustain the SRB population. The SRB enumeration, together with activity and oxygen microprofile measurements showed that the biomass of aerobic wastewater treatment systems can serve as inoculum or as site for a wide spectrum of redox related biotransformation processes.

I chose this paper because I would like to learn more about how methane contributes to greenhouse gases. I think that both methane and greenhouse effects are super interesting. I was also surprised to see how the distribution of greenhouse gases in the diagram shown in class on Monday and wanted to learn more about it.

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Microbial Community Profiles in Wastewaters from Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Technology

JaÅ‚owiecki, Łukasz et al. “Microbial Community Profiles in Wastewaters from Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Technology.’ Ed. Andrew C Singer. PLoS ONE 11.1 (2016): e0147725. PMC. Web. 15 Feb. 2018.


The aim of the study was to determine the potential of community-level physiological profiles (CLPPs) methodology as an assay for characterization of the metabolic diversity of wastewater samples and to link the metabolic diversity patterns to efficiency of select onsite biological wastewater facilities. Metabolic fingerprints obtained from the selected samples were used to understand functional diversity implied by the carbon substrate shifts. Three different biological facilities of onsite wastewater treatment were evaluated: fixed bed reactor (technology A), trickling filter/biofilter system (technology B), and aerated filter system (the fluidized bed reactor, technology C). High similarities of the microbial community functional structures were found among the samples from the three onsite wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), as shown by the diversity indices. Principal components analysis (PCA) showed that the diversity and CLPPs of microbial communities depended on the working efficiency of the wastewater treatment technologies. This study provided an overall picture of microbial community functional structures of investigated samples in WWTPs and discerned the linkages between microbial communities and technologies of onsite WWTPs used. The results obtained confirmed that metabolic profiles could be used to monitor treatment processes as valuable biological indicators of onsite wastewater treatment technologies efficiency. This is the first step toward understanding relations of technology types with microbial community patterns in raw and treated wastewaters.

I chose this paper because it gives a good insight on the diversity of microbes that are examined during wastewater treatment and it also elaborates on how exactly they were able to determine what microorganisms were found during the shifts in the substrate.

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Fate and Transport of Viruses During Sewage Treatment in a Mound System


I believe you can click on the above to see the paper. This article focuses on viruses in sewage treatment in an onsite septic system, specifically a mound type system that will has sand to provide physical treatment. These systems are commonly used in permafrost areas and are fairly common in the Fairbanks area.

Abstract:  Studies undertaken to assess the performance of filter materials to remove phosphorus in decentralised sewage systems have not reported on the broader performance of these systems. This study aimed to identify virus fate and transport mechanisms at the laboratory scale for comparison with field experiments on a mound system amended with blast furnace slag. Inactivation was a significant removal mechanism for MS2 bacteriophage, but not for PRD1 bacteriophage. Column studies identified rapid transport of PRD1. Laboratory studies predicted lower removal of PRD1 in a full scale system than was experienced in the field study, highlighting the importance of considering pH and flow rate in pathogen removal estimates. The results highlight the necessity for studying a range of organisms when assessing the potential for pathogen transport.

Citation: Charles, Katrina J., Freya C. Souter, Danielle L. Baker, Cheryl M. Davies, Jack F. Schijven, David J. Roser, Daniel A. Deere, Paul K. Priscott, Nicholas J. Ashbolt (2008). Fate and transport of viruses during sewage treatment in a mound system. Water Research 42, pg 3047-3056.

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