Multi-scale Investigation of Ammonia-Oxidizing Microorganisms in Biofilters Used for Drinking Water Treatment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ammonia-oxidizing microorganisms (AOMs) include ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB), archaea (AOA), and Nitrospira spp. sublineage II capable of complete ammonia oxidation (comammox). These organisms can affect water quality not only by oxidizing ammonia to nitrite (or nitrate) but also by cometabolically degrading trace organic contaminants. In this study, the abundance and composition of AOM communities were investigated in full-scale biofilters at 14 facilities across North America and in pilot-scale biofilters operated for 18 months at a full-scale water treatment plant. In general, the relative abundance of AOM in most full-scale biofilters and in the pilot-scale biofilters was as follows: AOB > comammox Nitrospira > AOA. The abundance of AOB in the pilot-scale biofilters increased with increasing influent ammonia concentration and decreasing temperature, whereas AOA and comammox Nitrospira exhibited no correlations with these parameters. The biofilters affected AOM abundance in the water passing through the filters via collecting and shedding but exhibited a minor influence on the composition of AOB and Nitrospira sublineage II communities in the filtrate. Overall, this study highlights the relative importance of AOB and comammox Nitrospira compared to AOA in biofilters and the influence of filter influent water quality on AOM in biofilters and their release into the filtrate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3833-3842
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 7 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support for this work was provided by the city of Minneapolis and the Water Research Foundation (WRF 4669). The University of Minnesota Genomics Center sequenced the 16s rRNA gene amplicons and provided additional technical support. We thank Annika Bankston, George Kraynick, and Dr. Li Zhang of Minneapolis Water Treatment and Distribution Services for providing technical input in the pilot-scale experiment. We acknowledge our WRF project manager Djanette Khiari as well as the project advisory committee members (John Haley, Mike Hotaling, Lutgarde Raskin, and Paul Westerhoff). We thank Ashley Evans, Jason Carter and Brent Alspach, Carrie Smith, Allison Wheeler of Arcadis, Sarah Page of the City of Ann Arbor, and Caroline Russell of Carollo for helping coordinate the full-scale investigation and providing technical input. We thank all participating drinking water facilities for assisting in sample collection. We also thank Dr. Michael Waak for his input on the analysis of the DNA sequencing results.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Chemical Society.


  • ammonia-oxidizing bacteria
  • archaea
  • comammox
  • full-scale
  • Nitrospira
  • pilot-scale

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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