• biological phosphorus removal;
  • aerobic/extended-idle process;
  • polyphosphate accumulating organisms;
  • methanol;
  • ethanol


Recently, a novel operational regime (i.e., the oxic/extended-idle [OEI] regime) has been reported to successfully achieve enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) when employing glucose and volatile fatty acids as the sole substrate. In the OEI regime, polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs) could get a selective advantage over other populations during the extended-idle period where polyphosphate released but polyhydroxyalkanoates and glycogen transformations were negligible/low, thus energy requirements for maintenance purposes in the period could be covered by polyphosphate release. This study further evaluated the feasibility of alcohols as external carbon sources for EBPR induced by the OEI regime, as the available substrate in the raw wastewater is often deficient. First, phosphorus removal in the OEI process was compared, respectively, with methanol and ethanol as the sole substrate. The results showed that the ethanol-reactor achieved 90.8 ± 2.3% of phosphorus removal, which was approximate twofold than the methanol-reactor. Further studies displayed that the cells in the ethanol-reactor contained more PAOs, and had higher activities of exopolyphosphatase and polyphosphate kinase than those in the methanol-reactor. Also, the aerobic transformations of polyhydroxyalkanoates and glycogen in the ethanol-reactor were, respectively, higher and lower than those in the methanol-reactor, which were consistent with the reactors performances. Then, the feasibility of using ethanol as external substrate to enhance EBPR in the OEI process was confirmed for a municipal wastewater. Finally, EBPR performance and metabolic transformation values between the OEI and the anaerobic/oxic (A/O) regimes with ethanol as the sole substrate were compared. The results showed that EBPR in the ethanol-OEI reactor was higher than that in the ethanol-A/O reactor. All the above results proved that ethanol was a favorable external substrate to the OEI regime for EBPR enhancement. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2013; 110: 827–837. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.