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Adding beneficial microorganisms to anaerobic digesters for improved performance (i.e. bioaugmentation) has been shown to decrease recovery time after organic overload or toxicity upset. Compared to strictly anaerobic cultures, adding aerotolerant methanogenic cultures may be more practical since they exhibit higher methanogenic activity and can be easily dried and stored in ambient air for future shipping and use. In this study, anaerobic digesters were bioaugmented with both anaerobic and aerated, methanogenic propionate enrichment cultures after a transient organic overload. Digesters bioaugmented with anaerobic and moderately aerated cultures recovered 25 and 100 days before non-bioaugmented digesters, respectively. Increased methane production due to bioaugmentation continued a long time, with 50–120% increases 6 to 12 SRTs (60–120 days) after overload. In contrast to the anaerobic enrichment, the aerated enrichments were more effective as bioaugmentation cultures, resulting in faster recovery of upset digester methane and COD removal rates. Sixty days after overload, the bioaugmented digester archaeal community was not shifted, but was restored to one similar to the pre-overload community. In contrast, non-bioaugmented digester archaeal communities before and after overload were significantly different. Organisms most similar to Methanospirillum hungatei had higher relative abundance in well-operating, undisturbed and bioaugmented digesters, whereas organisms similar to Methanolinea tarda were more abundant in upset, non-bioaugmented digesters. Bioaugmentation is a beneficial approach to increase digester recovery rate after transient organic overload events. Moderately aerated, methanogenic propionate enrichment cultures were more beneficial augments than a strictly anaerobic enrichment.
Tale, Vaibhav Panjabrao; Maki, James; and Zitomer, Daniel, "Bioaugmentation of Overloaded Anaerobic Digesters Restores Function and Archaeal Community" (2015). Civil and Environmental Engineering Faculty Research and Publications. 132.