News Briefs: Can Viruses Eliminate Bacterial Settling?

In this week's news, research projects examine the use of bacteriophages in biological treatment. Also, Flagstaff, Ariz., begins researching antibiotic-resistant bacteria and how it can be removed from effluent.
News Briefs: Can Viruses Eliminate Bacterial Settling?

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Ramesh Goel, a National Science Foundation-funded scientist, believes bacteriophages could be the key to improving wastewater treatment processes. Goel’s research shows potential in using these host-specific viruses to attack problematic filamentous bacteria used to treat wastewater.

“On the one hand, we use the bacteria to treat the water, but some are not cooperating and create problems,” says Goel in a article. “The danger is in having them escape with the treated water.”

Instead of using chlorine to eliminate the bacteria, Goel’s process would isolate and replicate viruses that infect filamentous bacteria that are known to cause settling problems in biological wastewater treatment processes. So far, the process has been used successfully in laboratory scale reactors. Goel hopes to bring it into practice for full-scale operations.

Goel is also working on research that would use bacteriophages to eliminate biofilms on membrane filters through direct application or by using intermediate chemicals produced by the phages to degrade the biofilm.


Program Trains Inmates for Wastewater Treatment Jobs

In Virgina, 11 wastewater apprentices have completed a year-long program designed to help offenders re-enter their communities. The Wastewater Apprenticeship Program, which was created by Environmental Services Unit Director Tim Newton, provides participants with classroom and computer course work.

“Every community, large or small, has wastewater treatment needs,” says Nottoway Correctional Center Treatment Plant Operator Robbie Jones in a article. “People don’t realize how much it takes. A lot of science and math goes into wastewater operation.”

Of the 11 apprentices, 10 have passed the Class 4 wastewater certification and received an operator’s license. One participant received a Class 3 certification, and at least one former offender no works at a wastewater treatment facility in his community.

“With a professional license, these men have a much better change of getting a job when they return to their community,” Jones says. “This is a catalyst, an incentive to get the GED and then get into the apprenticeship program. This gives them a goal, and when they get their professional license and get out, they can get a job.”


City Studies Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Reclaimed Water

The City of Flagstaff, Ariz., has partnered on three major research projects to examine antibiotic-resistant bacteria in reclaimed water. The research is in response to concerns raised by physicians, environmentalists and concerned citizens in 2011.

The first research project will focus on antibiotic-resistant genes and bacteria in treated wastewater, which is something “every municipality wants to know,” according to Jean McLain, associate director of the University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center. The study will examine what happens to Flagstaff’s effluent when it leaves the treatment plant and passes through distribution pipes within the city. Researchers intend to measure levels of antibiotic-resistant genes in the water and compare it with other municipal treatment systems as well as levels in drinking water.

Other research will examine the wastewater treatment process and look for ways to reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The projects have received significant funding from the National Science Foundation and the Water Environment Research Foundation as well as from TGen North, a local genomic and pathogen research institute.

Source: AZ Daily Sun 

Prescription Drug Rules Aim to Ease Wastewater Contamination

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration published new rules that will make it easier for consumers to dispose of surplus prescription medications. The new rules will hopefully reduce the residual contamination of waterways.

Now, retail pharmacies, hospitals with pharmacies and drug manufacturers will be allowed to collect and destroy more than 160 chemical compounds. Before this regulation expansion, only law enforcement agencies could collect the substances.

According to a Circle of Blue article, numerous studies have detected tiny amounts of pharmaceuticals in U.S. waterways, indicating that the substances escape most wastewater treatment plants.

Source: Circle of Blue 


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