An aerobic bacterial consortium (Consortium A) was recently isolated from textile wastewater and tested to be able of degrading a variety of nonylphenol polyethoxylates (NPnEOs) congeners as well as an industrial mixture of branched side-chain isomers of 4-nonylphenol (4-NP) using them as the sole carbon and energy source. In the perspective of developing a biotechnological process for the treatment of effluents from activated sludge plants fed with NPnEO contaminated wastewater, the capability of Consortium A of biodegrading two industrial mixtures of NPnEOs in the condition of immobilized cells was investigated. A packed-bed bioreactor has been developed by immobilizing the consortium on an innovative ceramic material (Vukopor® S10) by re-circulating Consortium A cells growing on a 4-NP contaminated water under batch conditions. Two different NPnEO mixtures were subsequently tested as the only carbon sources. The experimental approach was then defined as follows: the reactor was fed with the first mixture (IgepalCO-520: average ethoxylation degree of 5), operated under batch conditions for a brief period and then it was switched to the continuous mode. The same was done feeding the reactor with the second mixture (IgepalCO-210: average ethoxylation degree of 1,5). The reactor was monitored through chemical, microbiological and molecular integrated methodology. Both experiments displayed comparable NPnEO mineralization under batch and continuous conditions. DGGE analyses were running on the DNA extracted from the liquid phases and from the biofilm developed on supports at the end of the two experiments, to determine the spatial distribution of Consortium A microorganisms mostly involved in NPnEO biodegradation. The data collected in this study provide a preliminary strong indication on the feasibility of Consortium A-based biofilm technology for the decontamination of NPnEO containing effluents
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