What the Heck is Bioaugmentation?

Bioaugmentation products are not meant to be the answer to every grease, odor or treatment problem, but they can keep things flowing while you work on a long-term solution.
What the Heck is Bioaugmentation?
MicroClear 207 bioaugmentation bacteria from Environmental Leverage

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Bioaugmentation in wastewater treatment is not new. In fact, wastewater treatment professionals have turned to biological additives for decades as a way to recover from an upset, expand treatment, improve BOD removal, seed a new plant or tackle grease issues. I even remember reading an old textbook that suggested using soil as a source of organisms for starting up a treatment process, which is technically bioaugmentation.

Scientific evidence shows biological additives work, and new, specialized organisms are being developed all the time. Bioaugmentation products are available for many facets of wastewater treatment, including:

Septic system additives
Because they are marketed to the general public, septic system additives are a widely used augmentation product. Unfortunately, they are also the most misused. About 1,200 septic system additives — ranging from chemicals to enzymes to bacterial colonies — are available for purchase.

Proper application of these products has shown some tangible benefits, but it all depends on homeowner use. The EPA has published papers addressing the misapplication of septic system additives, and some states — such as Washington — have even published a list of approved septic system additives. These products are prohibited from promising longer intervals between system cleanings.

Collection system additives
Bioaugmentation products are also used in collection systems, most commonly to target fats, oil and grease (FOG). Grease can create blockages, reduce the flow capacity of lines, interfere with level detection and pumping, and create problems at a treatment facility.

The first step in controlling FOG in the collection system is to make sure all restaurants and institutions install grease traps and clean them regularly. That said, a large amount of grease comes from individual homes, and bioaugmentation products can effectively control FOG in the collection system.

These products can be added by hand or by chemical metering pumps, but slow-dissolve applications are very popular. Usually, bacteria colonies are formulated into bricks or contained in fabric bags that slowly dissolve. Most products used for FOG removal use bacteria-forming enzymes to break the bond between glycerol and fatty acids.

In-process additives
These products are often packaged in premeasured doses in dissolvable pouches. Advertised applications include: improved BOD removal, improved solids settling, nitrification, and targeted compound reduction including phenols, aromatic hydrocarbons and chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Site remediation additives
Groundwater remediation often demands highly specific treatment, and bioaugmentation is an integral part of these operations. Many specialized organisms have been developed, and research is continually expanding the applications. Paired with systems to provide oxygen underground, aerobic organisms have proven valuable in this field as well.

Startup additives
These specially formulated bioaugmentation products start a treatment process from scratch.

Bioaugmentation typically must be maintained to achieve continued treatment levels. It would be nice if we could keep a colony of specialized organisms perpetually working in our plants, but it doesn’t work that way. Introduced organisms do not tend to repopulate in pace with a system’s main population. In fact, studies show that when introduced, an organism’s population peaks and declines to normal levels in one day.

Generally, sewer system and treatment plant managers opt to use bioaugmentation to make up for a deficit in operational capacity. Whether for grease issues in the collection system or to meet nitrogen limits at the treatment facility, bioaugmentation can certainly be the right medicine. It might not fix the problem, but it can keep things flowing while you work on the big picture.


Tools of the trade
Looking for bioaugmentation products? Check out this list from the January TPO product focus. To see more products, click here.

  • Chemtron Citrus Float - Citrus Float concentrated, heavy-duty, fast-acting citrus Terpene solvent blend from Chemtron penetrates, cleans and dissolves heavy grease. It is made entirely from plant and vegetable materials and a thickening blend. It can act as a drain maintainer, degreaser and odor counteractant where rapid action is required. Users add the product to grease traps, manholes and piping where odor and floating grease and oils are a problem. www.chemtron.com.
  • Environmental Leverage MicroClear 207 - Dry powdered MicroClear 207 bioaugmentation bacteria with micronutrients from Environmental Leverage help eliminate foaming, heavy scum and greasy oil. The bacteria degrade FOG quickly, reducing BOD and TSS and odors. Bioaugmentation helps clean pipes, reduce residual grease buildup and reduce or eliminate maintenance issues. www.environmentalleverage.com.
  • Byo-Gon PX-109 - PX-109 alkaloid compound from Byo-Gon helps eliminate grease, sewage odor and hydrogen sulfide from grease traps, lagoons and sewage systems by improving biology. It promotes rapid cell growth and consumption of organic material and overcomes limiting environmental factors to stabilize wastewater systems. It helps prevent large capital expenditures and reduces operations and maintenance costs. www.byogon.com.


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