Vázquez-Rodríguez G.A., Garabétian F. and Rols J.-L. (2007) Inocula from activated sludge for ready biodegradability testing: Homogenization by preconditioning. Chemosphere 68 (8): 1447-1454. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2007.03.073
The use of activated sludge as inoculum source in ready biodegradability tests (RBT) suffers from several drawbacks related to the heterogeneity of these communities. In this work, the ability of a 7-day aeration period in a mineral medium to homogenize the characteristics of various activated sludges, as suggested by some RBT, was studied. The biodegradation potential of three activated sludge supernatants obtained from different wastewater treatment plants was assessed in terms of cultivable cell density, dehydrogenasic activity and a profile of hydrolytic enzymes. After the preconditioning, the homogenization of these characteristics in the supernatants was observed, as well as a decrease. When preconditioned inocula were used in acetate RBT, the biodegradation kinetics were homogenized. However, some preconditioned supernatants lost their ability to degrade an easily-assimilable xenobiotic compound (aniline) during the observation period, showing the effect of inoculum preconditioning on the behavior of complex bacterial communities, specialist populations (e.g. aniline degraders) being more sensitive than generalist populations (e.g. acetate degraders). These results show that preconditioning cannot be an optional inoculum pretreatment in RBT, and emphasize the importance of further studies focusing on inoculum homogenization.