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Chapter 17 : Microbes and Sewage Treatment

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Abstract:

This chapter talks about microbes that play an essential role in water purification and sewage treatment. Sewage presents several kinds of community problems. Certain kinds of disease-producing microbes can be transmitted via sewage. The ultimate purpose of sewage treatment facilities is to treat polluted water so that in the shortest possible time it is converted to “pure” water suitable for human use, or at least pure enough to put into the ocean or a nearby river without polluting it. This is accomplished in part by intensifying the activities of the assemblage of microbes that normally mineralize organic substances in the natural environment. If the amount of oxygen available is too low, foul odors develop due to hydrogen sulfide and noxious organic compounds produced by various microbes under anaerobic conditions. The self-purification of a river system is due primarily to the metabolic activities of bacteria, and the aim of sewage treatment disposal plants is to accelerate these activities under controlled conditions. In conventional sewage treatment systems, most of the original nitrogen and phosphorus atoms leave with the final effluent in the forms of nitrate, or ammonia, and phosphate. These inorganic nutrients can cause problems in the waters that receive the sewage plant effluent, for example, by encouraging eutrophication (nutrient enrichment of natural waters, frequently leading to excessive growth of algae). There are ways of removing these inorganic nutrients from the final effluent (so-called polishing treatments), but they are not in widespread use as yet.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Microbes and Sewage Treatment, p 110-116. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch17
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Figures

Image of Figure 27
Figure 27

The ancient Romans developed an efficient water supply and disposal system that included the Cloaca Maxima, a huge network of sewers. One of the original outlets can be seen in this print by Giovanni Piranesi, made in 1776.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Microbes and Sewage Treatment, p 110-116. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch17
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Image of Figure 28
Figure 28

Diagram of a sewage treatment plant

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Microbes and Sewage Treatment, p 110-116. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch17
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