Don’t miss Terry Biere, MS, Senior Environmental Engineer, at the 28th Annual Montana Mine Design, Operations, and Closure Conference. Terry’s talk on the Use of Biocoupons will be held virtually this year at 10:00 am on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, and can be accessed through the conference website.
Biocoupons: Shedding Light on the Black Box of Biological Water Treatment
Biological water treatment systems rely on microbial activity that often occurs in biofilms, wherein groups of microbes adhere to surfaces and function as a cohesive community with combined attributes of individual populations. In saturated systems, these biofilms co-occur with planktonic communities, comprised of free-floating organisms that have detached from the surface-attached biofilm. The relative abundance, diversity and metabolic activities of planktonic organisms are often quite different from those associated with biofilms due to differences in microenvironment
A variety of methods have been employed to characterize microbial communities in water treatment facilities and waste environments. Laboratories are faced with options in every aspect of community analysis including sample collection, preservation, nucleic acids extraction, sequencing methodology and analysis pipeline. Available options have unique merits and pitfalls which are considered in selecting the best methods to meet project goals for specific types of samples. These decisions must also consider practicalities of sample collection and relevance to prior work.
Though attached biofilm communities in water treatment systems are understood to be more diverse and more robust than associated detached planktonic communities, it is often problematic to obtain samples that are representative of in situ conditions. Enviromin utilizes biocoupon technology for monitoring of attached biofilm communities in situ. Biocoupons contain field-relevant materials and are commonly installed within the saturated portion wastewater treatment facilities. These biocoupons are left for a period of time to allow for native biofilm growth. Once harvested, community analysis can be performed on representative samples. Using comparative methods, changes in the structure and potential function of surface associated microbial communities can be evaluated to assess the impacts of time and operational changes in a treatment facility. The routine use of appropriate biocoupons improves monitoring of the biological communities responsible for water treatment and can inform operational decisions toward robust, resilient, efficient treatment.