Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

Dear Keith,

I am sure that you don't need to worry about the bacteria that are doing the work in activated sludge wastewater treatment processes.

These bacteria are naturally present in the environment / in wastewater. In the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) they are given the right conditions to do their job, i.e. to break down organic matter or to remove nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus). Then after the reactor comes the secondary settling tank, where the bacteria are settled and returned to the reactor, i.e. the mass of bacteria in the effluent from wastewater treatment plants is very low. OK, true, when the secondary settler fails then you have a temporary increase (loss of sludge) but this is the exception and the plant would fail its licence conditions. Even though, these bacteria are not something to be scared of - there are many other more dangerous compounds that you can worry about (e.g. pharmaceutical residues and hormones in wastewater).

In any case, I would always be more scared of raw sewage than of treated sewage (and the higher standard treatment the better).

Helminth ova in sewage sludge is a different issue (should be in a different thread if you want to discuss it).

Tertiary treatment methods (ozonation, activated carbon adsorption, membrane filtration etc. - and possibly putting all these processes in a chain to give multiple barriers) can in principle take anything out of the wastewater, but due to the high costs, this is not used on all wastewater, not even in wealthy countries.

Do you remember where you read this?:

I've read 60% of the world's population--4.1 billion people--use water-based sanitation systems that simply dump the untreated waste back into the environment. How accurate do you think this is?


The value seems too high to me. It would mean that 60% of the world's population is connected to sewer systems?

A statement that I have read and which I think is quite true (impossible to "prove" exactly but maybe with Google one could find the root source):
"90% of all sewage generated worldwide is released to the environment untreated." (= only 10% of all wastewater is treated in wastewater treatment plants - to some undefined level).

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Elisabeth

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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

Dear Detlef,

As far as the Annamox,

No danger by hydrazine within the ANAMMOX-part of wwtp's?


To the best of my knowledge not. The annamox bacteria have a specific part in their "body" where the metabolize nitrogen compounds with hydrazine as an intermediate step. So they produce and decompose hydrazine inside this cell core. The only way hydrazine could be released, I guess, is if it is released when the annamox bacteria decompose. I don't think this happens, because then hydrazine should be present in nature considering the very large amount of annamox bacteria present in nature. However, I have no scientific references to back up the claim that hydrazine is not released when annamox bacteria decompose. This would be a question for an expert.

Kind regards

Marijn

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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

Heh, it is difficult to argue with you Keith, as a lot of what you bring as arguments is not totally wrong but either slightly misinterpreted or hugely blown out of proportions :)

Let me summarize it and I hope you agree:

1. Too many plant nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) are bad for natural surface waters.
2. A part (that differs from location to location) of this over-fertilization is caused by water borne sanitation which is not or insufficiently treated.
3. Especially in the USA a lot of WWTPs are out-dated and environmental regulations are not sufficient to prevent the release of too many nutrients from these.
4. Treatment options in WWTP like activated sludge or AMMANOX are a (expensive) solution for capturing these nutrients, but maybe there are some unintended side-effects that are not yet fully understood (But I don't think so and don't want to add any FUD ).
5. If the nutrients could be directly captured and recycled near to their point of origin (e.g. EcoSan etc.) this entire problem would be much less severe.

----
To point 4: Your overall argument is a bit contradicting there, as activated sludge and AMMANOX etc. was invented to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus in WWTP effluents.

I guess your real argument should be not WWTPs are bad, but rather WWTPs are a not very good (and most of the time insufficient) solution to a huge problem, which could be much better solved by an ecosan approach (which by the way would also lower the problem of fertilizer over-use in agriculture).

----
For the point of AMMANOX bacteria thriving in ocean dead-zones; well yes these dead-zones are a big problem, and that (naturally occurring) AMMANOX bacteria thrive in these and might disturb the ocean's nitogen balance does make matters worse. However as deadzones are created by dumping too much nitrogen into these parts of the ocean, one might as well argue that this is nature's attempt to deal with the issue. In any case, if at all it is an argument for more AMMANOX or activated sludge treatment in WWTPs before all those nutrients can reach the oceans.

----
To the issue of multiplying organisms in WWTP that are potentially harmful to the environment or human health:
Well obviously this is an complex ecosystem problem which is impossible to fully understand in its entirety. However for the most part the organisms artificially nurtured in a WWTP are extremely mal-adapted to survive in a natural environment and thus die off quickly (and WWTPs try to minimize the release of them anyways)...

And WWTPs (probably) do not specifically multiply pathogens nor cause an environment where antibiotic resistance is transferred between bacteria. If at all they somewhat reduce those issues but that is not their main function. All those news about finding these issues in WWTPs is an issue of "killing the messenger" e.g. yes it is found there because that is nearly the only place where such stuff is tested.

Now towards your entire argument of unbalanced bacterial gut flora and how this all might cause various chronic diseases: Yes that is an interesting field of study which will for sure result in some interesting interrelations not thought of before. But if anything, this field of research has shown so far that it isn't some outside pathogens, or the overabundance of artificially multiplied bacteria (to link to the above topic) in the environment, but rather body internal factors or differences in diet that are causing these.
The shift in thinking is exactly this: It is not outside factors like pathogens etc. but a mix of various external and internal factors that change the complex ecosystem of a body (e.g. the idea of a body as an ecosystem is new) and thus in turn can cause in-balances which the human body and its associated symbiotic microbes did not have time yet to evolve to deal with.
Thus if outside organisms wreck havoc in our gut it is rather a symptom than a cause.

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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

Marijn Zandee wrote: Dear Detlef,

As far as the Annamox,

No danger by hydrazine within the ANAMMOX-part of wwtp's?


To the best of my knowledge not. The annamox bacteria have a specific part in their "body" where the metabolize nitrogen compounds with hydrazine as an intermediate step. So they produce and decompose hydrazine inside this cell core. The only way hydrazine could be released, I guess, is if it is released when the annamox bacteria decompose. I don't think this happens, because then hydrazine should be present in nature considering the very large amount of annamox bacteria present in nature. However, I have no scientific references to back up the claim that hydrazine is not released when annamox bacteria decompose. This would be a question for an expert.

Kind regards

Marijn


Not an expert either on this specific topic (but maybe on the general topic as I am a microbiologist), but as far as I can tell hydrazine is only a intermediary step thus the quantities accumulated inside the cells are minuscule. So even if the cells would die and decompose the overall quantity released should be very small (and as a very reactive substance, hydrazine will decompose quickly as well).

Besides that, even in a human body there are plenty of substances that if accumulated, purified and dried would probably make for a good explosive, yet I am not the slightest afraid of spontaneous internal combustion ;)

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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

Dear Colleagues,
Thanks for the clarifications on the "danger" by Anammox processes within "NEW" Dutch wwtp's.

Keith, would you agree too?

If the Anammox part comes after an energy producing AD part (anaerobic digestion) and abolish common AS (active sludge) a wwtp would become a net-"producer" of energy. So former energy and nutrients wasting centralized wwtp's will be 24 h/d and 365 d/a producers of decentralize renewable energy, a backbone for the fluctuating renewable energy of solar and wind. And later nutrients suppliers too.

Regards,
Detlef

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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

muench wrote: Dear Keith,

I am sure that you don't need to worry about the bacteria that are doing the work in activated sludge wastewater treatment processes.


Elisabeth, I wish that were true. I was talking about protozoans, not bacteria, though you may be using bacteria as generic term for microbes.

Have you been following the news about antibiotic resistant organisms born in WWTPs?

Please see here:
"'Superbugs' Found Breeding in Sewage Plants"
www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216142807.htm

www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?i...lants-super-bacteria
www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111207133042.htm
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20112862
www.medscape.com/viewarticle/756378_8
www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0043135402005699
www.formatex.info/microbiology2/509-519.pdf
www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tandf/bes...41/00000003/art00002
onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.15...41.2005.00032.x/full

"These results demonstrate that final effluents from wastewater treatment plants are potential reservoirs of various antibiotics resistance genes."
www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2180/10/143

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944501309001153
www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/hunting...-nightmare-bacteria/
blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/04/23/i...s-lost-superbug-war/


Have I misconstrued your point? I realize you were referring mainly to microbes purposely used to break down organic material.

Surely you understand what a huge problem antibiotic resistance is . . .
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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

Protozoans are a huge group of species, which ones are you referring to specifically? Many are totally harmless surface water inhabitants, that rightfully show a low chemical pollution if thriving well.

Concerning the antibiotic resistance:
Some interesting reads, but they are not conclusive in regards to the accusation that WWTPs "breed" antibiotic resistance.
Basically it boils down to this:
Mixing all sorts of waste-water (domestic, livestock and especially hospital) is a bad idea, and the specific physiochemical conditions in untreated sewerage, combined with highly diluted antibiotics might result in a higher rate of horizontal resistance gene transfer.

The next finding is that WWTPs generally fail to remove these from the sewerage and certain resistance phenotypes seem to relatively increase due to a shift in relative concentrations of different bacterial species. This however is purely incidental and there is no direct causal relationship to the actual treatment process. To quote one of the papers ( onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.15...41.2005.00032.x/full ):

"Except for ciprofloxacin, the wastewater treatment did not select positively or negatively for antibiotic resistance phenotypes. Similarly, the treatment process was not related to any variation in the prevalence of isolates exhibiting resistance to more than one antibiotic."

Now there also seem to be some lab-studies which suggest that the specific conditions in WWTPs can also lead to increased horizontal resistance gene transfer, so I do not want to deny that possibility, but lets not blame WWTPs for the real culprit, e.g. over- and miss-use of antibiotics and indiscriminate mixing and dumping of all that waste into the sewers.

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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

Dear Keith,

When I said "bacteria", indeed I also meant protozoa or any of the microbes that are active in the activated sludge treatment process and can be found under the microscope when looking at activated sludge flocs. I maintain that I am not scared of the normal microbes that are doing the work in the activated sludge treatment process.

Regarding the resistance to antibiotics and the super-bugs, this is a different story in my opinion. This is in fact much scarier. (and the pharmaceutical residues in treated sewage that I mentioned above which are not removed in conventional WWTPs, only in very advanced treatment plants, are also an issue which we have long used as an argument in favour of urine diversion).

Please continue this existing thread on the forum if you would like to discuss the very dangerous super-bugs and their resistance to all antibiotics further (I know that Arno, who started that thread, is also very concerned about it):
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/26-hea...age-and-water-supply

The links that you posted were interesting. My simplified view was that one key problem is that people take too many antibiotics even when they don't really need them - particularly in developing countries but probably all over the world. But the mentioned theory that WWTPs could increase the proliferation of super-bugs, rather than just passing on what comes into the plant (when they don't used advanced treatment) was not something that I was aware of. But let's discuss this in the above mentioned thread rather, not in this "Anammox" thread.


Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

Combine this

90% of all sewage generated worldwide is released to the environment untreated." (= only 10% of all wastewater is treated in wastewater treatment plants - to some undefined level).

To this:

Forty percent of the world’s population—2.5 billion people—lack access to improved sanitation facilities

Which means we have about 6% of WWT to some extend. Is it worth to demonize WWTP in the light of this fact?
Shouldn´t we – even with differing ideas - concentrate on the 2.5 billion? Or better on the 5,6 billion? And not waste our time to (not)argue!

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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

JK, I was referring mainly to ciliate protozoans known to cause severe illness, yet they are puposely multiplied in WWTP to lower bacterial counts, then released unregulated by obsolete law. Also, in recent news we've seen food contamination cyclospora outbreaks where cyclospora are known to be in wastewater, unregulated. I believe the protozoan cyclospora were once classified as cyanobacteria, itself associated with neurodegeneration, i.e., Parkinson's disease.

Elisabeth, it is surprising to many that WWTP are multiplying antibiotic resistance. If I have more to say about, I'll do so in the thread you've posted, thanks.

Christoph, the reason I'm demonizing WWT is precisely because I don't want to see this technology proliferate, applied to 5.6 billion people. I'd like to see dry toilets become a real priority, yet the World Bank still finances WWTPs without any priority on dry toilets. I'd go so far as to say that WWTPs are akin to deforestation, changing "old growth" ecosystems permanently. They're a poor excuse to defecate in water.

Detlef, I'd say the jury is still out on anammox and hydrazine. One would think it would be easy to find expertise on this matter, peer-reviewed papers detailing how this should not be a concern. I've also not seen expertise regarding multiplying anammox in the environment and potential effect on the nitrogen cycle, speeding global warming.

It's poignant JK mentions hydrazine in connection with spontaneous combustion (feel free to laugh now) as I also see this phenomenon as sanitation issue, but more so about clostridium and/or fungal overgrowth which are commonly seen in tandem in health problems such as autism, etc. There are also theories about acetone build-up where acetone is product of microbes, especially known in clostridium (also famous for antibiotic resistance). Did you catch this recent news story of the poor child in India mysteriously catching fire several times? We are walking compost heaps.
abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/08/22/d...ntaneous-combustion/

You all rock, by the way. Thanks for your patience and for the conversation.
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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

Here's a good 2012 paper showing the state of knowledge regarding anammox bacteria. There's much to learn about these microbes. I've emailed the author asking if hydrazine is released when anammox bacteria decompose. She's on maternity leave, so it may take a while for a response.

The paper states "anammox bacteria are more related to the Chlamydiae, obligate intracellular parasites, than to eukaryotes and might have evolved from a Gram-negative bacterium."

We know anammox bacteria are now in fish intestines. Whether or not hydrazine is released may not be relevant given the function of anammox bacteria in nitrogen metabolism. Disturbing human nitrogen metabolism would be . . . disturbing enough.
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23183532
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/685874

"examination of the scraped epithelium showed dense, homogeneous colonies of anammox
bacteria (Fig. 5), indicating that these bacteria are capable of adhering to the intestine wall"
www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0044848608008351
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Re: Various discussions around the Anammox process, nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen cycle, oxygen-free pockets in oceans

I am not exactly sure why you think AMMANOX bacteria in fish (or human) guts would be bad. I couldn't access the full texts of those articles you linked, but the abstracts don't seem to indicate anything problematic either. If at all they are actually removing problematic substances (NH3+NO2) that occur from urea breakdown other bacteria are causing. You should also note that AMMANOX bacteria grow extremely slow and do not compete with other (likely more beneficial) bacteria in your gut.
The tiny amounts of hydrazine they produce are also not leaving the cells as ammanox bacterial have a special extremely tight cellular compartment that evolved to make sure no hydrazine is lost.

Concerning the above quote... that actually made me chuckle. Let be give you an analogue for humans to show how much fear mongering that is:
"humans are more related to Brugia malayi, a lymphatic parasite that causes elephantiasis, than to bacteria and might have evolved from land living mamals".
Both quotes are true, but equally totally misleading.

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