How do the ‘bugs’ in Wastewater Treatment Plants reduce Phosphate pollution?Published on, January 31, 2023
In the systems that Burrow Environmental installs, microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi play a crucial role in reducing the level of phosphate in wastewater treatment plants. Phosphate is a major contributor to eutrophication, the over-enrichment of water bodies with nutrients, which leads to reduced water quality, degraded habitats, and decreased biodiversity. In wastewater treatment plants, microorganisms are used to break down organic matter and remove pollutants, including excess phosphate, from the effluent. These microorganisms exist in sewage and multiply within the wastewater treatment plant.
The treatment of wastewater in a wastewater treatment plant typically involves several stages, including physical, and biological treatment, sometimes chemical. In the biological treatment stage, microorganisms are used to break down organic matter and remove pollutants, including excess phosphate, from the wastewater. The microorganisms feed on the organic matter, converting it into biomass and releasing carbon dioxide, water, and other by-products in the process.
The removal of phosphate from wastewater is typically achieved through the use of biological processes, such as biological phosphorus removal (BPR). BPR is a process in which specialized microorganisms, known as phosphorus-accumulating organisms (PAOs), are used to remove excess phosphate from the wastewater. The PAOs are capable of taking up and accumulating excess phosphate in their cell structures, effectively removing it from the wastewater.
In the BPR process, the wastewater runs through the home’s sewer pipes and into an aerated tank, where the PAOs are able to feed on the organic matter and take up the excess phosphate. The PAOs then form flocs (microscopic clumps of bugs that stick together) which are removed from the wastewater through sedimentation, they basically just sink to the bottom. The flocs are then returned to the aeration tank, where they are broken down by other microorganisms.
Another important aspect of the BPR process is the control of the microorganisms in the wastewater treatment plant. The populations of PAOs and other microorganisms in the wastewater treatment plant are carefully managed to ensure that they are functioning effectively and efficiently. In a municipal sewage works this is achieved through the control of factors such as pH, temperature, and nutrient levels in the wastewater, influencing the growth and activity of the microorganisms. This is not necessary in small domestic plants.
The use of microorganisms in wastewater treatment plants is not only effective in reducing the level of phosphate in effluent, but it is also a cost-effective and environmentally friendly approach. Compared to chemical treatments, biological treatments are less expensive, less energy-intensive, and generate fewer by-products that can contribute to environmental pollution.
In conclusion, microorganisms play a critical role in reducing the level of phosphate in wastewater treatment plants. Through the use of biological phosphorus removal and other biological treatment processes, specialized microorganisms are able to effectively remove excess phosphate from wastewater, contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable environment.