Copper-induced stimulation of nitrification in biological rapid sand filters for drinking water production by proliferation of Nitrosomonas spp.

Florian Benedikt Wagner*, Vaibhav Diwan, Arnaud Dechesne, Jane Fowler, Barth F. Smets, Hans-Jørgen Albrechtsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Copper is a co-factor of the ammonia monooxygenase, an essential enzyme for the activity of ammonia oxidizing prokaryotes (AOP). Copper dosing at less than 1 µg/L stimulated ammonium removal in the poorly-nitrifying biological filters of three full-scale drinking water treatment plants. Upon copper dosing, the ammonium concentration in the effluent decreased from up to 0.18 to less than 0.01 mg NH4+-N/L. To investigate how copper dosing affected the filter microbial community, we applied amplicon sequencing and qPCR targeting key nitrifying groups, including complete ammonia oxidizing (comammox) Nitrospira. Copper dosing increased the abundance of different nitrifiers. Multiple Nitrosomonas variants (betaproteobacterial ammonia oxidizers), which initially collectively represented 1% or less of the total community, increased almost 10 fold. Comammox Nitrospira were abundant and increased too, but their relative abundance within the AOP decreased because of Nitrosomonas proliferation. No other consistent change in the filter communities was detected, as well as no adverse effect of copper on the filters functionality. Our results show that copper dosing in three independent plants was associated with consistent growth of AOP and that efficient nitrification was achieved through the joint contribution of comammox Nitrospira and an increasing fraction of betaproteobacterial ammonia oxidizers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number21
Pages (from-to)12433-12441
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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