Analysing Effective Microorganism Technology
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EM (Effective Microorganism). The principle of EM is the conversion of a degraded ecosystem full of harmful microbes to one that is productive and contains useful microorganisms.
Microorganisms have been have been known for its abilities for decades to enhance the effect of medical technology, human and animal health.
EM (a.k.a EM Technology) contains principally 3 positive (beneficial and naturally-occurring) microorganisms which are:
- Lactic acid bacteria
- Photosynthetic bacter
- Fermenting fungi*
(*not longer being used in the formulary)
Theoretically, these aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms can be found in every ecosystem, are compatible to each other and can co-exist in every environment. Microorganisms used in EM are non genetically-engineered, in other words, it is harmless for human's health. Due to its natural and organic origin, the technology has been considered beneficial for mankind.
The EM Technology can be used in various fields as one of the most natural solutions to create a better, sustainable agricultural and environmental life. Claimed effects are as below
Kitchen waste to fertilizer
Drinkable water from polluted water etc.
The technology was developed in the early 1980s by Dr. Teruo Higa, a professor from the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan. Dr. Teruo Higa is a Ph.D holder from The Agricultural Research Department of Kyushu University Graduate School.
The Technology has received a small number of doubtful feedbacks and therefore, is yet to be accepted by everyone. The main reason of doubts came from the lacks in scientific proof, as stated by Prof. Teruo Higa himself.
...it is difficult to demonstrate conclusively which microorganisms are responsible for the observed effects, how the introduced microorganisms interact with the indigenous species, and how these new associations affect the soil plant environment. Thus, the use of mixed cultures of beneficial micro-organisms as soil inoculants to enhance the growth, health, yield, and quality of crops has not gained widespread acceptance by the agricultural research establishment because conclusive scientific proof is often lackingâ€¦.
Despite critics from conventional scientists, the technology is now being used in over 120 nations. The products can be ordered through its official website www.teraganix.com.
The Earth is a planet, which consists up to 70.9% of water. Water is vital to all known living organism, this including us, human beings, animal and plants. Having polluted with waste in the water, mankind now faces a serious water crisis. Malaysia, as a developing-industrial country has contributed a lot of chemical waste in its own river, resulting in serious water pollution. Treatments against waste water were attempted, some failed, some succeeded, and currently some states in Malaysia (notably Penang and Johor) are attempting to purify its water (sea and rivers) by using The EM Technology.
In this paper, we will focus on the EM Technology as a solution to purify water in Malaysia.
EM Technology in Malaysia
EM Technology has been adopted by Malaysia as a cheap and rapid method to purify its polluted rivers and sea. There are numerous ways to apply the EM technology, but they all share a similarity, where the application largely depends on which areas one wants to apply to, the size of the area, geographical circumstances and climate.
An example of the recommended quantity of EM needed in ponds.
Malaysia is purifying its sea and rivers by either spraying EM or throwing mud balls. In order to get participation from the community, mud balls were introduced.
The best-suited and widely used EM Technology in Malaysia is called the EMAS EM 1, which is common to be applied to gardening, ponds etc. as well.
EM 1: A concentrated liquid form, in which the beneficial microorganisms are already alive but yet to be activated. It is an original solution to create EMAS EM 1.
EMAS EM 1: It is an outcome of diluting the high concentrated EM 1 in water and later on by adding in molasses such as sugar cane (molasses acts as a food supplement for microorganisms) to activate the dormant microorganisms.
EMAS EM 1 has to be kept under certain temperature (25 - 30 Celsius). EMAS EM 1 can only be applied after 7 - 10 days of storage at the above mentioned degree. In these 7 - 10 days, the fermentation takes place. The EMAS EM has a pH between 3.5 and 4 and is yellow-brownish upon completion of the fermentation.
As final outcome, EMAS EM 1 will either be compressed so that the solution can be sprayed, or made into mud balls by mixing in mud.
Most Mud Balls contain Bokashi (Japanese, meaning Fermented Organic Matter). Fermented organic matters are like rice brain, fish meal etc.. After mixing EMAS EM 1, mud and bokashi, the outcome is then made into balls and left to be dried for 1 week.
Malaysia has hopes on EMAS EM 1 as a solution to revive dead river (full of agae, chemical waste, odor smelled-river), cleaning neighborhoods' drain by innovating the community to pour mud balls into it where first it will clean the drain and as the water flows to the river and eventually to the sea, it benefits the whole water-ecosystem.
There are several other on-going and done projects from the government; these projects are supported by various parties (states, civil society groups etc.)
On-Going and Done Projects:
- Sungai Kelian, Tanjung Bungan
- Parit 4, Bukit Mertajam
- Sungai Mas, Batu Ferringhi
- Sungai Pinang, Georg Town
- Sungai Juru, Seberang Perai
- Northeastern Coastline along Persiaran Gurney
Above mentioned projects are just some of the examples. One of the most successful projects was in Pearl of Orient. Pearl of Orient is a touristic spot located in the Island of Penang, Malaysia. It is highly polluted today as a result of the long-term disposing of kitchen waste from restaurant around the bay, chemical waste from industrial part of Penang etc. An event named "One Million Apologies for the Mother Earth" was launched by the government on August 8th 2009. Prof. Teruo Higa, the researcher of the EM Technology participated in the event as the key note speaker. The event attracted 300 people from government bodies and organizations, along by more than 18,000 civilians. To correspond to the theme of the event, participants have thrown a total of 1.2 million of mud balls into the water. The progress of the bay is now still monitored by EM Research Organization (EMRO) scientists.
Experiment 1 - Szymanski and Patterson
A lab-based experiment was done by Szymanski and Patterson. The main objective of the experiment was to determine if EM really can effectively break down sewage sludge. The experiment was done in septic tanks. Five same-sized and some amount of waste septic tanks were treated. 6 liter activated EM was given as initial dose in each tank, following by 350 ML every week after for the next 3 weeks. Totally, 10 liter of activated EM was put into tanks over the time of 4 weeks.
Result of monitoring:
pH level: Decrease of pH level to an environment of lower pH.
Electrical conductivity (EV): The EV value did also decrease as well.
Total Solids: Insignificant decrease.
Total Suspended Solids: Total suspended solids (TSS) are a term used for the measurement of water quality. No indication of decreasing or increasing in the trial.
Conclusions of the experiment written by the both were, the EM Technology has:
No reduction in the test of Total Suspended Solids.
No significant affect in term of solids content in water waste plant.
Further research has to be done, as the experiment took only a time period of 4 weeks, which probably the actual affect of the EM technology can only be seen over a longer period.
Due to the fact that a notable amount of solids still exist upon completion of the trial, the experiment does not agree with previous experiments that indicated reduction in solids handling. Further research has to be done before recommendation of EM usage to reduce the solids content in water.
Experiment 2- Miquel Lurling, Yora Tolman, Marieke Euwe
Another experiment was done by the trio to examine EM's ability to reduce the cyanobacterial blooms (algal boom). 4 experiments were performed using the EM Mud Balls from the Netherlands. Experiments was done on M. aeruginosa from the Norwegian Institute of Water Research and on wild non-lab phytoplankton (mainly M. aeruginosa as well).
Regular EM Mud Balls are not effective in controlling, decreasing or preventing the growth of algae.
EM Mud balls might even help the growth of algae by providing nutrition to algae.
EM Mud balls release metal contaminants.
Complication to be concerned
It is a great idea and effort to be appreciated of using the EM technology to purify our water system in Malaysia. However there are some points that Malaysia should concern.
The Application Quantity
Thousands and millions of mud balls have been thrown to the sea in couple of projects. The exact measurement of the water volume in sea is hard to calculated, of massively huge if calculated. The amount thrown into the sea was in doubt to be sufficient to purify the sea. Besides, application of the EM Technology is a continuation process. In the experiment of Syzmanski and Patterson, they indicated that the possibility of insufficient application in their experiment might be part of the reason that there was not a significant effect.
The cost of EMAS - EM 1 is relatively cheap. However, in order to purify the sea, we need a huge amount of EMAS - EM 1. Not to say over a long period. It is a decision yet to be made by the State of Penang regarding its huge investment.
Lacks of Scientific Proof
There are numbers of studies done, some supported, some not. As the result of the experiment shown by Syzmanski and Patterson, there is only a minimal effect upon completion of the application. However, 2 other projects in Penang showed a great result after using the EMAS - EM1. They are Sungai Kelian and Sungai Mas over 6 months of treatment.
Introduced species might endanger a balanced ecosystem. They might be threats to those so called native-species. On the other side, introduced species are often hard to survive in a new environment. That is part of the reason why the application of EMAS - EM1 should go over a long period of time, in order to enable the beneficial microorganisms to adapt to the environment. If no indication of how many microorganisms will actually survive and how many are actually needed when mud balls are thrown into the water, it will be a waste in cost.
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