Effects On Biology
Sewage treatment plants can have multiple effects on nutrient levels in the water that the treated sewage flows into. These effects on nutrients can have large effects on the biological life in the water in contact with the effluent. Stabilization ponds (or treatment ponds) can include any of the following:
- Oxidation ponds, which are aerobic bodies of water usually 1–2 meters in depth that receive effluent from sedimentation tanks or other forms of primary treatment.
- Dominated by algae
- Polishing ponds are similar to oxidation ponds but receive effluent from an oxidation pond or from a plant with an extended mechanical treatment.
- Dominated by zooplankton
- Facultative lagoons, raw sewage lagoons, or sewage lagoons are ponds where sewage is added with no primary treatment other than coarse screening. These ponds provide effective treatment when the surface remains aerobic; although anaerobic conditions may develop near the layer of settled sludge on the bottom of the pond.
- Anaerobic lagoons are heavily loaded ponds.
- Dominated by bacteria
- Sludge lagoons are aerobic ponds, usually 2 to 5 meters in depth, that receive anaerobically digested primary sludge, or activated secondary sludge under water.
- Upper layers are dominated by algae
Phosphorus limitation is a possible result from sewage treatment and results in flagellate-dominated plankton, particularly in summer and fall.
At the same time a different study found high nutrient concentrations linked to sewage effluents. High nutrient concentration leads to high chlorophyll a concentrations, which is a proxy for primary production in marine environments. High primary production means high phytoplankton populations and most likely high zooplankton populations because zooplankton feed on phytoplankton. However, effluent released into marine systems also leads to greater population instability.
A study carried out in Britain found that the quality of effluent affected the planktonic life in the water in direct contact with the wastewater effluent. Turbid, low-quality effluents either did not contain ciliated protozoa or contained only a few species in small numbers. On the other hand, high-quality effluents contained a wide variety of ciliated protozoa in large numbers. Because of these findings, it seems unlikely that any particular component of the industrial effluent has, by itself, any harmful effects on the protozoan populations of activated sludge plants.
The planktonic trends of high populations close to input of treated sewage is contrasted by the bacterial trend. In a study of Aeromonas spp. in increasing distance from a wastewater source, greater change in seasonal cycles was found the furthest from the effluent. This trend is so strong that the furthest location studied actually had an inversion of the Aeromonas spp. cycle in comparison to that of fecal coliforms. Since there is a main pattern in the cycles that occurred simultaneously at all stations it indicates seasonal factors (temperature, solar radiation, phytoplankton) control of the bacterial population. The effluent dominant species changes from Aeromonas caviae in winter to Aeromonas sobria in the spring and fall while the inflow dominant species is Aeromonas caviae, which is constant throughout the seasons.
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