The Process Involved In Microbial Treatment Of Wastewater

Microbial treatment of wastewater is done to reduce the amount of organic material in sewage. Microorganisms are necessary to decompose the matter. There are many of these microorganisms found naturally in water bodies and flowing together with the waste but it is still necessary to add artificially prepared organisms to complement the preexisting ones. Preparation involves culturing the desired species in special media so as to yield a colony that is later released into the water.

All bacteria fall in one of three major categories depending on their oxygen requirements. These categories are the aerobic, anaerobic and facultative groups of organisms. Aerobic bacteria are those that only survive in presence of oxygen. Anaerobic organisms do not need oxygen and may even be affected negatively in its presence. Facultative bacteria may survive both oxygen and carbon dioxide. Aerobes are required to carry out decomposition and oxygen is usually added to keep the numbers of these bacteria high.

Water treatment is divided into four distinct stages. These are the primary (first stage), secondary, tertiary and disinfection stages. The main activity during the primary stage is filtration. Large solids are removed from the rest of the waste using grates, filtration channels and settling tanks. This leaves only the very small and the dissolved solids to proceed to the secondary stage.

The main activity that takes place in the secondary stage is the addition of microorganisms. Favorable factors are provided to facilitate the growth of these organisms. Organic matter therefore starts decomposing at this stage. The next stage (tertiary) is needed to remove excess nutrients (mainly nitrogenous and phosphate compounds) carried in the sewage. In disinfection, which is the last stage, chlorination is done to kill disease-casing microbes.

When the amount of organic matter is excessively high, there is need to add more organisms at the tertiary stage. If most of the organisms are removed before the secondary stage, the whole process will be more efficient. The amount of organisms added should not be too much as their concentration may be just too much for the disinfection mechanism downstream.

There are numerous benefits that come about as a result of this system. Reducing the concentration of organic matter in the water also reduces the competition for oxygen. This means that aquatic life found downstream can continue to flourish. Removal of bacteria during disinfection significantly reduces chances of disease transmission to humans and animals.

If well organized, the process is an option that is efficient, effective and affordable. Since it is entirely natural, there is no environmental pollution. The odor associated with sewage is reduced by treatment of sludge. Odor is caused by the decomposing action of anaerobic bacteria that produce unpleasant gases such as hydrogen sulphide. The treatment also helps reduce the volume of the waste.

Before the adoption of microbial treatment of wastewater, there were attempts to treat the water using enzyme-based methods. This did not go on for long due to the numerous challenges associated with this method. A major challenge was the difficulty in choosing an effective enzyme to breakdown the different types of organic matter in the sludge. The process was also very expensive to carry out. The bacteria are the better option as they can produce any of the required enzymes.



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