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Algae Growth In Bodies of Reclaimed Water


Algae Growth In Bodies of Reclaimed Water

Algae contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Like plants, algae carry out photosynthesis which is a biochemical process requiring sunlight, carbon dioxide, and raw mineral nutrients.  As an end product, algae produce oxygen.  Since algae require light for their growth, they are restricted mostly to the top surfaces of trickling filters and ponds.  While algae can usually be seen in wastewater treatment plant waters, they are not usually found in large numbers except in tertiary treatment units, such as clear wells, nor do they play a significant role in treatment.  However, in oxidation ponds the algae may represent a substantial portion of the population and may play a significant role in treatment.

Since algae grow readily in water or soil whenever conditions are appropriate, they can be found as transients in wastewaters.  More importantly, algae grow in inland receiving waters in direct response to mineral nutrients, such as nitrogen (usually nitrates, ammonia and even nitrogen gas), phosphorous, and others, but especially phosphorous.  The limitation on phosphorous in some wastewater effluents in New York State stems directly from this concern.

When algae grow in receiving waters, they may grow attached or dispersed as plankton.  In either case they can cause nuisance conditions as well as affect dissolved oxygen relationships from night to day (cycling), since they produce dissolved oxygen during the day as a result of their photosynthesis in sunlight and use up the oxygen at night in respiration.

Another algae nuisance condition that is seen in some lakes and inland bodies of water which is indirectly attributable to mineral nutrient inputs, is a sudden rapid growth of algae called an algae "bloom".  Algae blooms are quite noticeable and often the water becomes colored and turbid or has floating accumulations of algal mats or scums.  The waters may become supersaturated with dissolved oxygen during the day.  A rise in pH (over 8 and as high as 9.5) can also occur.  Frequently, an algae bloom will consume itself.  This happens when local nutrient depletions occur as a result of the rapid growth of the algae.  When the algae die the organic matter from the algal cells, plus the availability of dissolved oxygen, make the conditions appropriate for bacterial growth which usually follows the "bloom".  Bacteria, like algae, grow in response to the availability of food and nutrients and they too undergo a rapid growth phase, sometimes depleting dissolved oxygen and causing the system to go anaerobic.

Wastewater treatment plant effluents contain mineral nutrients that are utilized by algae - especially phosphorous, whose availability in sufficient quantity can greatly enhance their growth.
Source: Environmental Microbiology Texts used in Mountain Empire College in Virginia

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Algae Growth In Bodies of Reclaimed Water

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