Scientific reports

Impact of a wastewater treatment plant on microbial community composition and function in a hyporheic zone of a eutrophic river.

PMID 26607034


The impact of the installation of a technologically advanced wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) on the benthic microbial community of a vinyl chloride (VC) impacted eutrophic river was examined two years before, and three and four years after installation of the WWTP. Reduced dissolved organic carbon and increased dissolved oxygen concentrations in surface water and reduced total organic carbon and total nitrogen content in the sediment were recorded in the post-WWTP samples. Pyrosequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA gene fragments in sediment cores showed reduced relative abundance of heterotrophs and fermenters such as Chloroflexi and Firmicutes in more oxic and nutrient poor post-WWTP sediments. Similarly, quantitative PCR analysis showed 1-3 orders of magnitude reduction in phylogenetic and functional genes of sulphate reducers, denitrifiers, ammonium oxidizers, methanogens and VC-respiring Dehalococcoides mccartyi. In contrast, members of Proteobacteria adapted to nutrient-poor conditions were enriched in post-WWTP samples. This transition in the trophic state of the hyporheic sediments reduced but did not abolish the VC respiration potential in the post-WWTP sediments as an important hyporheic sediment function. Our results highlight effective nutrient load reduction and parallel microbial ecological state restoration of a human-stressed urban river as a result of installation of a WWTP.