Often waste professionals faced with difficult treatment criteria, cost concerns, or a new waste stream find themselves pressured to purchase strange additives. Today I will address one of the most common that I see being marketed to industrial and municipal wastewater professionals.
What I offer is like a "Bug Steroid" - natural extracts and vitamins that make bugs grow faster, degrade more compounds, reduce odors, and produce less sludge. Of course it sounds great, but I am of the curious/scientific type and always ask.... "well how does it actually work?" In this case the answer is almost a uniform... "We don't know the exact mechanisms, but it does what we say it does.... Can I have your purchase order."
I am not suggesting that vitamins and micronutrients cannot increase microbial growth rates and in some cases be necessary for proper function. The most common use of micronutrient additives is in operating anaerobic systems where methane production is often increased by adding rare elements such as Co, Ni, & Mo. Again; before adding micronutrients the system should be examined to see if the additives are needed based on influent characterization.
In addition to anaerobic systems, I have seen adding some micronutrient/vitamin formulations make slight improvements to floc formation and microbial activity in systems with some lacking micronutrients. The most cost effective way to get these micronutrients is not some expensive additive. In my lab tests on pulp mill wastewater, I have found that adding glacial rock powder provides an excellent supply of minerals that can be used by the microbes when needed. With glacial rock powder readily available in 50 lb bags - it is used by organic farmers - you can often solve issues with lacking micronutrients by adding glacial rock at a rate of 5 - 10 pounds per million gallons flow ~ 0.7 - 1.2 parts per million (PPM).
To conclude - There is no such thing as a bug steroid. If you are found lacking micronutrients, add the lowest cost source of these minerals which is often glacial rock or even a metal salt (example magnesium sulfate).
Of course, if someone has a bug steriod and can tell me how it works on a cellular basis, I am willing to evaluate how it can help improve waste treatment.
Erik Rumbaugh has been involved in biological waste treatment for over 20 years. He has worked with industrial and municipal wastewater facilities to ensure optimal performance of their treatment systems. He is a founder of Aster Bio (www.asterbio.com) specializing in biological waste treatment.
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