Indicator Organisms: How well do you know your bugs?

June 20, 2016

Colonies of translucent spheres, floating fractals, and thread-like organisms exist beneath the surface of your process water. And, as Steven Myers explains, it’s wise to get to know them. In Wastewater Microbiology, an informative video, Myers encourages wastewater treatment plant operators to be on friendly terms with filament populations, because their presence is oftentimes indicative of wastewater’s condition.

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Myers calls these creatures “indicator organisms.” He explains that researchers have discovered that the presence of certain filaments is indicative of specific water issues. For example, Vorticella and epistylis are commonly correlated with high effluent quality, while opiculura can be an indication of low effluent quality.

Dominance of a particular filament may signify nutrient deficiencies, dissolved oxygen levels, or the presence of pollutants.

With that in mind, he encourages plant managers to observe their facility’s populations, perform a filament analysis, and create a filament table that correlates the presence of organisms with actual water conditions. He suggests that a table can support predictive decision-making and the use of filament populations as a guide for process modifications.

From stalked ciliates like vorticella and epistylis to free-swimming ciliates such as aspidisca, litonotus, citomotus, trachelophyllum; and nematodes, these tiny translucent creatures can help determine the most effective treatment process. It pays to know your bugs.

Do you use microbiology to monitor your wastewater treatment process?
About the Author

Laura Sanchez

Laura Sanchez is the editor of Distributed Energy and Water Efficiency magazines.

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