Bad Odor and Bio-filtration Solutions
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- Mikhail Kachmazov
UQ: How have microbes solved a local or global problem?
The specific problem or issue:
Sewage and industrial plants situated near residential areas can produce unpleasant odors making it difficult to live there.
Explain the problem:
The sewage plants near residential areas can be a subject to the social and environmental problems if these facilities produce unpleasant odors. The causes of the odors are generally the inorganic and volatile organic compounds which result from bio filtration and from the sewer of industrial waste. There are different types of volatile organic compounds that are emitted as a result of bio filtration like 2-butanone, α-pinene, tetrachloroethylene, dimethyl disulfide, β-pinene, limonene, phenol and benzoic acid. One of the main culprits for the bad odor are sulphur compounds which are relatively less in concentration but play significant role in odor causing factors.
Explain how science is helping, or has helped, to solve the problem:
Bad odor from sewage water is a major environmental issue worldwide. Bad odor from sewage water is an indicator of possible health risk therefore governments spend a lot of money on treating the sewage water and unpleasant odor. Science has played a major role in solving this problem biologically as well as chemically. Following are several methods to treat sewage water and odor from this water.
- Bio filtration
- Thermal Oxidation
Thermal oxidation burns the odor causing compounds directly or indirectly. Bio filtration on the other hand oxidizes the odor causing compounds by using microbes. Microbes like Pseudomonas Putida that are used in this technique have been significant in treating sewage water and bad odor in an efficient, safe and inexpensive way. 
How it works:
Bio-filtration is quite an innovative technology to control pollutants. It helps to eliminate malodorous gas emissions and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of low concentrations. The most common design of a bio-filter is just an ordinary big box. Some of them can be very big, others can be quite small. A bio-filter's main function is to bring microorganisms together with pollutants in an air stream. The bio-filter which has the breeding material for the microorganisms is placed inside the box. The “biofilm”, which is a layer of moisture where the microorganisms live, can be found around the particles of filter media.
When the bio-filtration process takes place, the operators pump the polluted stream of air through the bio-filter, so that the filter media absorbs the pollutants. The bio-filter diffuses the contaminated gas and sends it onto the biofilm that absorbs it. The pollutants are then degraded by the microorganisms. The metabolic products of this process are carbon dioxide and water as well as the produced energy. The chemical formula of this process caused by oxidation is:
Volatile Organic Pollutant + O2ïƒ CO2 + H2O + Heat + Microbial Biomass 
Effectiveness of this technique:
This technique is very efficient and it has plenty of advantages over the traditional methods of pollutants. First of all, one of the major conditions for traditional methods is high temperature, however when it comes to bio-filtration the technicians can use low temperatures, thus the whole process becomes cost effective, because there are no costs of combustion. Moreover it is safer than traditional methods because combustion is a dangerous process. Secondly, the maintenance cost of bio-filtration is much lower than traditional methods. According to a research conducted by Pinchin Environmental Group Canada, this technology is more than 95% efficient and environmentally friendly because the whole process can be done in an absolutely natural way. 
Limitations of this technique:
Even though this is an effective method it still has some limitations that restrict the implementation of this technique. First of all the bio-filtration is not able to remove all the organic substances from the water, for instance, those with low rates adsorption or degradation like chlorinated VOCs. Moreover this technique requires a large area to be installed in case it will need to treat a large amount of water. Finally, acclimation periods for populations of microbes may be as long as weeks or months, in particular for volatile organic compounds treatment.
Applications of Bio-filtration:
Even though the simple forms of bio-filters can be used by general public, the main uses are in the commercial areas. The following industries apply VOC:
- Chemical and petrochemical industry
- Synthetic resins
- Paint production
- Oil and gas industry
- Pharmaceutical industry
- Treatment of wastewater
- Remediation of Soil and Groundwater
The following industries apply odor abatement applications:
- Treatment of sewage
- Slaughter houses
- Gelatin and glue plants
- Agricultural processing
- Tobacco, sugar and cocoa industry
- Fragrance and flavor
Environmental, health and social impact:
This technique is environmentally friendly because it does not damage the environment and it does not pollute the air or anything. It’s eco-friendly because the process is natural and does not harm the nature of the Earth, it is also been called a “green technology”. Moreover, it has positive health impact on the society, because the process of bio-filtration does not involve any chemical substances and does not produce any harmful chemical by-products. Basically, the only by-products of the process of oxidation used in bio-filtration are water and carbon dioxide, which makes this technology extremely clean and safe.
To conclude I want to say that the bio-filtration process is an effective process that is used frequently nowadays. Even though it has its own limitations and disadvantages, still it is one of the most promising, environmentally friendly and efficient technologies, that combines both simplicity and effectiveness, therefore it is a viable alternative to traditional methods of sewage water treatment.
- "Odour Complaints." Pinchin Environmental. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2014. http://www.pinchin.com/air/news/odour-complaints
- "Pseudomonas Putida." Pseudomonas Putida. Kris Hamilton, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2014. http://web.mst.edu/~microbio/bio221_2007/P_putida.htm
- "WHAT IS BIOFILTRATION?" WHAT IS BIOFILTRATION? N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2014. http://missmason230.tripod.com/
- “Sewage and Wastewater Odor Control” by Dr. Giancarlo Riva, Ozono Elettronica Internazionale, Muggio, Italy Anthony Sacco, Spartan Environmental Technologies, Mentor, OH, USA
- “Detection, Composition and Treatment of Volatile Organic Compounds from Waste Treatment Plants” by Xavier Font, Adriana Artola and Antoni Sánchez , Composting Research Group, Department of Chemical Engineering, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193-Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallès), Barcelona, Spain. http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/11/4/4043
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