The Role of Bio-Enzymes in our Environment

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The Role of Beneficial Bio Enzymes in Our Environment

The role of beneficial bio-enzymes and beneficial bacteria in our environment: Microorganisms populate our environment, successfully adapting to a wide range of extremes. Bacteria are nature’s “primary decomposers”, critical to the natural recycling of the planets basic elements such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous, etc Bacteria are the major mechanism by which waste materials are degraded.

Biological activity in waste systems: Waste collection systems are designed to collect and often transfer various waste components. Waste systems are designed to separate waste and oil from a wastewater stream
(1) to reduce the build-up of these components in collection systems and
(2) to prevent excessive loading on downstream treatment facilities. A waste system’s effectiveness in collecting waste varies with size and design relative to loading.

Although waste systems are not designed to favor biological treatment, they create conditions favorable to biological growth including food substrate in the form of waste and other organics, generally acceptable pH, limited aeration, and generally suitable temperatures. Naturally occurring organisms capable of utilizing the food substrate present establish a population within the waste system. This population tends to utilize the most readily available organics such as starches. Hydraulic residence times are short, but microorganisms increase biomass retention by attaching to surfaces, colonizing pipes, walls, and even layers of scum. The attached bacteria are partially embedded in the biofilm that forms from organics, minerals, and exopolymeric substances secreted by the bacteria themselves. This biofilm protects the bacteria from occasions of high temperature, chemical additions, or pH excursions. In most waste systems, naturally occurring organisms, both suspended and attached to biofilms, are degrading some of the organics present including oil and waste.

Bioaugmentation in a Waste system: Bioaugmentation takes advantage of the ability of a waste system to support biological activity. By providing organisms that are specifically designed to degrade waste and oil, bioaugmentation can optimize the degradation of waste and oil.

Specialized organisms are developed from naturally occurring isolates that have been selected for their ability to degrade waste and oil of various origins, rates of waste degradation, metabolism of specific components, and tolerance of conditions present in the specific environment. Superior isolates are selectively adapted to optimize targeted capabilities. Strains are then tested in various combinations to develop the most synergistic and broad-spectrum blend. Once the bacterial blend has been optimized, the product is formulated to further assist in promoting biodegradation.

Strain evaluation methods include such assays as selective growth on specific compounds as the sole food source, measurements of specific enzyme production, and respirometric rates of growth on simulated or “real world” waste substrates. Batch systems and models simulate real world conditions. Field data is often flawed due to the changing conditions of an environment and sampling problems associated with waste collection systems. Often, field results are evaluated by visual observations, decrease system clean outs.

The Mechanism of Microbial Breakdown of Waste: Bacteria degrade compounds by producing very specific enzymes. Bacteria are extremely efficient “enzyme factories”. They recognize the organics present in an environment and respond by producing the enzymes required to degrade those specific organics. The breakdown of waste is a complicated metabolic pathway in which each step requires a specific enzyme. For example, a triglyceride is initially cleaved by lipase into a glycerol and three fatty acids. The glycerol and each fatty acid are then broken into smaller and smaller components by specific enzymes until eventually these compounds are reduced to carbon dioxide and water.

Due to the insolubility of waste, microorganisms degrade waste by acting at the oil/water interface. Bacteria themselves may produce biosurfactants that assist in the degradation by making the waste more available by emulsification. Microbes tend to collect at the surface of waste and oil due to the oleophilic nature of the cell wall and due to a property termed “chemo taxis”. Chemo taxis is the ability whereby bacteria recognize compounds as food sources, and, if motile, move in the direction of that food source. Bacteria increase contact with particulate food sources by the production of extra cellular polymers that allow bacteria to adhere to surface such as waste, oil, scum, and walls of collection systems. Once attached, the organisms produce enzymes to breakdown waste globules into molecules small enough to be transported into the bacterial cell to be broken into progressively smaller particles.

A consortium of bacteria, rather than a single strain, is most effective in breaking down waste and other complex wastes. A synergistic blend of selectively adapted microorganisms added to the indigenous population increases the speed and scope of degradation.

Each time the waste is broken down into a smaller particle the bacterium gains energy. This energy is utilized to produce more enzymes and for cell growth. Attached microorganisms continue to grow and produce. Some new cells are released into the liquid stream while others further colonize the biofilm.

Product Formulations: Bacterial products for waste system maintenance often contain formulations ingredients designed to initiate biological activity. Formulation ingredients may include components as buffers, surfactants, micronutrients, and enzymes. When bioaugmentation products are introduced to a waste system, there is a short lag phase when bacteria germinate, if required, and turn on the enzyme system required to metabolize organics recognized. Low levels of surfactant and enzymes are added for acclimating to their new environment.

Bioaugmentation vs. Alternate Technologies: Alternate products such as solvents, surfactants, and enzymes have also been marketed for the reduction of maintenance of waste systems. Solvents simply liquefy the waste in a waste system allowing transport downstream. Once the solvent is sufficiently diluted, the waste then re-solidifies and is redeposited on the walls of the collection system. Products containing a high concentration of surfactant have a similar effect.

Other products sold for waste system maintenance are based on concentrated enzymes. Enzyme treatments are short-lived since they cannot increase in numbers as breakdown process cleaving a triglyceride bond freeing glycerol and fatty acids. Like most enzymes, lipase is very specific and does not further breakdown the glycerol and fatty acids. Naturally occurring microorganisms present may breakdown much of the resulting glycerol and fatty acids, particularly the short chain fatty acids. However the long chain fatty acids are more difficult to degrade and will buildup in a system without the presence of capable microorganisms. This build-up may lead to a drop in pH, which may eventually stop all microbiological activity. The low pH phenomenon is very heavy relative to the water components of the waste system. Without the presence of capable microorganisms, enzyme products can be counterproductive. Conversely, microbial products maintain a balanced metabolism within the system, promoting complete breakdown of waste.

Impact of Bioaugmentation Programs: When bioaugmentation products are developed scientifically and utilized properly, they allow reduction of maintenance pumping, eliminate back-ups, and decrease or eliminate odor generation in waste systems. In fact, the dramatic effects demonstrated have actually raised a concern that, instead of being degraded perhaps this waste is actually liquefied and eventually transferred downstream. This effect would thwart the original purpose of the waste system resulting in additional waste build-up in the collection systems and increase loading on the waste treatment facility.

On the contrary, an effective bioaugmentation program can only provide a positive effect on collection and treatment systems downstream. The effect of a bioaugmentation program for waste system maintenance is the result of continued growth and degradation within the waste system. As waste is utilized a food source, additional bacterial cells are continually produced. Many bacteria are attached to biofilms and remain in the waste system but many of the new cells produced are sloughed off into the liquid waste stream. These new cells may reattach to a surface or remain suspended in the liquid phase to be transported further downstream. There is no mechanism whereby these organisms can contribute to waste buildup in the lines.

The Canadian Ministry of the Environment and Energy conducted an extensive study including 10 restaurants. A 16-week pre-bioaugmentation baseline data was compared to 16 weeks of treatment data including monitoring of the receiving sewers. “Study results indicate that bioaugmentation has the potential of reducing fat, oil, and waste in discharges from the restaurant sector by up to 50% and also bring facilities into compliance with sewer use discharge limits.” And “No adverse effects, as a result of bioaugmentation, were identified within restaurant waste systems, lateral sewers, and main sewers. The study has demonstrated, that under the right conditions, bioaugmentation has the potential of enhancing fat, oil, and waste management (maintenance) in the restaurant sector and reduce oil and waste maintenance activities for municipalities”

In fact, this technology, including many of the same strains, has been used very effectively for maintenance of sewage collection systems, Lines that had experienced quarterly waste blockages have remained clear for 2-5 years after initiation of a bioaugmentation program. This technology is also used to optimize biological degradation in POTW’s and waste-laden food processing waste treatment systems. An effective product, applied properly provides a cost-effective method of reducing maintenance of waste systems by improved degradation of waste. With the potential of introducing the beneficial organisms downstream, any impact that this technology cold have on receiving collection systems and treatment plants would be positive rather than negative.