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ADVANCES IN ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH

ADVANCES IN ENVIRONMENTAL
RESEARCH.
VOLUME 13
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ADVANCES IN ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH

ADVANCES IN ENVIRONMENTAL
RESEARCH.
VOLUME 13

JUSTIN A. DANIELS
EDITOR

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New York

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CONTENTS
Preface

vii

Short Commentary
The Global Extent of Black C in Soils: Is It Everywhere?
Evelyn Krull, Johannes Lehmann, Jan Skjemstad,
Jeff Baldock and Leonie Spouncer

Research and Review Studies


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Current and Emerging Microbiology Issues of Potable Water in


Developed Countries
William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery
John E. Moore, John P. Pezacki, James S. G. Dooley
and Roy D. Sleator
Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective and
Sustainable Technology of the 21st Century for Waste and Land
Management to Safe and Sustainable Food Production
Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe, Swapnil Patil,
Uday Chaudhary, Priyadarshan Bapat, Ashish Brahambhatt,
David Ryan, Dalsukh Valani, Krunal Chauhan, R. K. Suhane
and P. K. Singh

11

41

Human Waste - A Potential Resource: Converting Trash into


Treasure by Embracing the 5 Rs Philosophy for Safe and
Sustainable Waste Management
Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe, Swapnil Patil,
Pryadarshan Bapat, Krunal Chauhan and Dalsukh Valani

111

Effective Removal of Low Concentrations of Arsenic and Lead and


the Monitoring of Molecular Removal Mechanism at Surface
Yasuo Izumi

173

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)


Loads in Mink Accompanying Parasitic Infection by the Giant
Kidney Worm (Dioctophyme Renale)
Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

187

vi

Contents

Chapter 6

Aerobically Biodegraded Fish-Meal Wastewater as a Fertilizer


Joong Kyun Kim and Geon Lee

219

Chapter 7

Equity of Access to Public Parks in Birmingham, England


Andrew P. Jones, Julii Brainard, Ian J. Bateman
and Andrew A. Lovett

237

Chapter 8

An Idea for Phenomenological Theory of Living Systems


Svetla E. Teodorova

257

Chapter 9

A New Trait of Gentoo Penguin: Possible Relation to Antarctica


Environmental State?
Roumiana Metcheva, Vladimir Bezrukov, Svetla E.Teodorova
and Yordan Yankov

Chapter 10

Assessing Population Viability of Focal Species Targets in the


Western Forest Complex, Thailand
Yongyut Trisurat and Anak Pattanavibool

Chapter 11

Protection of Riparian Landscapes in Israel


Tseira Maruani and Irit Amit-Cohen

Chapter 12

Hydraulic Characterization of Aquifer(s) and Pump Test Data


Analysis of Deep Aquifer in the Arsenic Affected Meghna River
Floodplain of Bangladesh
Anwar Zahid, M. Qumrul Hassan, Jeff L. Imes and David W. Clark

Chapter 13

Application of DNA Microarrays to Microbial Ecology Research:


History, Challenges, and Recent Developments
John J. Kelly

271

285
305

325

357

Chapter 14

Food Safety in India: Challenges and Opportunities


Wasim Aktar

Chapter 15

Impact of Pesticide Use in Indian Agriculture Their Benefits and


Hazards
Wasim Aktar

423

Ozone Decomposition by Catalysts and its Application in Water


Treatment: An Overview
J. Rivera-Utrilla, M. Snchez-Polo and J. D. Mndez-Daz

433

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Index

Use of Microarrays to Study Environmentally Relevant Organisms:


A UK Perspective
Michael J. Allen, Andrew R. Cossins, Neil Hall, Mark Blaxter,
Terry Burke and Dawn Field

385

465

481

PREFACE
Short Communication - The latest projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) estimate a 3C increase in global temperatures within the next 100 years
(IPCC 4th Assessment Report, 2007), and global warming is seen as a major driver in
accelerating decomposition of soil organic matter, resulting in increased production of CO2
(e.g. Davidson and Janssens, 2006). The 2007 IPCC report recommended coupling models of
terrestrial biogeochemical and atmospheric and oceanic processes in order to improve general
circulation models and to recognize the quantitative value of soil organic carbon (SOC) in the
global carbon cycle.
Estimates of CO2 emissions from soil rely on predictions of the response of different
SOC pools to global warming and correct estimation of the size of these pools. In comparison
to the pool representing the most stable and biologically unreactive fraction, commonly
referred to as passive or inert organic carbon (IOC), the decomposition of labile C is expected
to be faster as a response to temperature increase. IOC is a fraction of the SOC pool that is not
readily available for microbial decomposition and has turnover times exceeding 100 years
(e.g. Krull et al., 2003).
Black C (BC) is usually considered the most abundant form of IOC and is defined as the
carbonaceous residue of incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuels (Schmidt and
Noack, 2000). BC is important to several biogeochemical processes; for example, BC
potentially modifies climate by acting as a potential carbon sink for greenhouse gases
(Kuhlbusch, 1998) and leads to increasing solar reflectance of the Earths atmosphere, but
also to a heating of the atmosphere (Crutzen and Andreae, 1990). BC production from fossil
fuel combustion contributes to aerosol C, decreasing surface albedo and solar radiation (IPCC
4th Assessment Report). Due to its condensed aromatic structure, BC has a low biochemical
reactivity. 14C ages of BC in soils vary between 1160 and 5040 years (e.g. Schmidt et al.
2002).
Chapter 1 - Water is vital for life; for commercial and industrial purposes and for leisure
activities in the daily lives of the worlds population. Diarrhoeal disease associated with
consumption of poor quality water is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in
developing countries (especially in children <5 years old). In developed countries, whilst
potable water is not a leading cause of death, it can still pose a significant health risk. Water
quality is assessed using a number of criteria, e.g. microbial load and nutrient content which
affects microbial survival, as well as aesthetic factors such as odor. In water systems, the
presence of disinfectant, low temperatures, flow regimes and low organic carbon sources do
not appear to be conducive to microbial persistence. However, frequently this is not the case.

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Justin A. Daniels

A variety of human pathogens can be transmitted orally by water and in the developed world
water quality regulations require that potable water contains no microbial pathogens.
Chlorine dioxide is a safe, relatively effective biocide that has been widely used for
drinking water disinfection for 40 years. Providing the water is of low turbidity, standard
chlorination procedures are sufficient to prevent the spread of planktonic bacteria along water
mains. However, despite this, bacterial contamination of water distribution systems is well
documented, with growth typically occuring on surfaces, including pipe walls and sediments.
Rivers, streams and lakes are all important sources of drinking water and are used routinely
for recreational purposes. However, due to fouling by farm and wild animals, these sources
can be contaminated with microbes, e.g. chlorine resistant Cryptosporidium oocysts, no
matter how pristine the source or well maintained the water delivery system. The high
incidence of Cryptosporidium in surface water sources underlines the need for frequent
monitoring of the parasite in drinking water. The use of coliforms as indicator organisms,
although considered relevant to most cases, is not without limitations, and is thus not a
completely reliable parameter of water safety, e.g. Campylobacter contamination cannot be
accurately predicted by coliform enumeration. Furthermore, the presence of biofilms and
bacterial interactions with protozoa in water facilitate increased resistance to antimicrobial
agents and procedures such as disinfectants and heating, e.g. Legionnaires disease caused by
Legionella pneumophila.
The high cost of waterborne disease outbreaks should be considered in decisions
regarding water utility improvement and treatment plant construction. The control of human
illnesses associated with water would be aided by a greater understanding of the interactions
between water-borne protozoa and bacterial pathogens, which until relatively recently have
been overlooked.
Chapter 2 - A revolution is unfolding in vermiculture studies (rearing of useful
earthworms species) for multiple uses in environmental management and sustainable
development. (Martin, 1976; Satchell, 1983; Bhawalkar and Bhawalkar, 1994; Sinha et.al
2002; Fraser-Quick, 2002). Vermiculture biotechnology promises to provide cheaper
solutions to following environmental and social problems plaguing the civilization
Management of municipal and industrial solid wastes (organics) by biodegradation and
stabilization and converting them into useful resource (vermicompost) THE VERMICOMPOSTING TECHNOLOGY (VCT) ;
Treatment of municipal and some industrial (food processing industries) wastewater,
purification and disinfection - THE VERMI-FILTRATION TECHNOLOGY (VFT);
Removing chemical contaminations from soils (land decontamination) and reducing soil
salinity while improving soil properties- THE VERMI-REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGY
(VRT);
Restoring and improving soil fertility and boosting crop productivity by worm activity
and use of vermicompost (miracle growth promoter) while eliminating the use of destructive
agro-chemicals - THE VERMI-AGRO-PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGY (VAPT);
Vermi-composting, vermi-filtration, vermi-remediation and vermi-agro-production are
self-promoted, self-regulated, self-improved and self-enhanced, low or no-energy requiring
zero-waste technology, easy to construct, operate and maintain. It excels all bio-conversion,
bio-degradation and bio-production technologies by the fact that it can utilize organics that
otherwise cannot be utilized by others. It excels all bio-treatment technologies because it
achieves greater utilization than the rate of destruction achieved by other technologies. It

Preface

ix

involves about 100-1000 times higher value addition than other biological technologies.
(Appeholf, 1997).
About 4,400 different species of earthworms have been identified, and quite a few of
them are versatile waste eaters and bio-degraders and several of them are bio-accumulators
and bio-transformers of toxic chemicals from contaminated soils rendering the land fit for
productive uses.
Chapter 3 - Waste is being generated by the human societies since ancient times.
Ironically waste was not a problem for the environment when men were primitive and
uncivilized. Waste is a problem of the modern civilized society. Materials used and waste
generated by the traditional societies were little and simple while those by the modern
human societies are large and complex. With modernization in development drastic changes
came in our consumer habits and life-style and in every activity like education, recreation,
traveling, feeding, clothing and housing we are generating lots of wastes. The world today
generate about 2.4 billion tones of solid waste every year in which the Western World alone
contributes about 620 million tones / year.
Discarded products arising from all human activities (cultural and developmental) and
those arising from the plants and animals, that are normally solid or semi-solid at room
temperature are termed as solid wastes. Municipal solid waste (MSW) is a term used to
represent all the garbage created by households, commercial sites (restaurants, grocery and
other stores, offices and public places etc.) and institutions (educational establishments,
museums etc.). This also includes wastes from small and medium sized cottage industries.
We are facing the escalating economic and environmental cost of dealing with current
and future generation of mounting municipal solid wastes (MSW), specially the technological
(developmental) wastes which comprise the hazardous industrial wastes, and also the health
cost to the people suffering from it. Developmental wastes poses serious risk to human health
and environment at every stage from generation to transportation and use, and during
treatment for safe disposal. Another serious cause of concern is the emission of greenhouse
gases methane and nitrous oxides resulting from the disposal of MSW either in the landfills or
from their management by composting.
Dealing with solid household waste in more sustainable ways involves changes not only
to everyday personal habits, consumerist attitudes and practices, but also to the systems of
waste management by local government and local industry and the retailers.
This chapter reviews the causes and consequences of escalating human waste, the
increasing complexity of the waste generated, and the policies and strategies of safe waste
management. It also provides food for thought for future policy decisions that government
of nations may have to take to reduce waste and divert them from ending up in the landfills,
drawing experiences from both developed nation (Australia) and a developing nation (India).
Chapter 4 - New sorbents were investigated for the effective removal of low
concentrations of arsenic and lead to adjust to modern worldwide environmental regulation of
drinking water (10 ppb). Mesoporous Fe oxyhydroxide synthesized using dodecylsulfate was
most effective for initial 200 ppb of As removal, especially for more hazardous arsenite for
human's health. Hydrotalcite-like layered double hydroxide consisted of Fe and Mg was most
effective for initial 55 ppb of Pb removal.
The molecular removal mechanism is critical for environmental problem and protection
because valence state change upon removal of e.g. As on sorbent surface from environmental
water may detoxify arsenite to less harmful arsenate. It is also because the evaluation of

Justin A. Daniels

desorption rates is important to judge the efficiency of reuse of sorbents. To monitor the low
concentrations of arsenic and lead on sorbent surface, selective X-ray absorption fine
structure (XAFS) spectroscopy was applied for arsenic and lead species adsorbed, free from
the interference of high concentrations of Fe sites contained in the sorbents and to selectively
detect toxic AsIII among the mixture of AsIII and AsV species in sample.
Oxidative adsorption mechanism was demonstrated on Fe-montmorillonite and
mesoporous Fe oxyhydroxide starting from AsIII species in aqueous solution to AsV by
making complex with unsaturated FeOx(OH)y sites at sorbent surface. Coagulation
mechanism was demonstrated on double hydroxide consisted of Fe and Mg from the initial 1
ppm of Pb2+ aqueous solution whereas the mechanism was simple ion exchange reaction
when the initial Pb2+ concentrations were as low as 100 ppb.
Chapter 5 - Patterns of metal uptake and accumulation in mink living under conditions of
environmental pollution and simultaneously inflicted with the invasive giant kidney worm
(Dioctophyme renale) parasite have not been examined, nor is the combined effect of these
dual insults on the health and physical condition of the animal known. Using animals
collected within the influence of the long-active ore-smelters at Sudbury, Ontario, an
examination was made of toxic metal (Cd, Ni and Pb) levels and their tissue distributions
within adult male mink bearing different intensities of parasite infection. Higher metal
burdens were indicated within infected specimens than those uninfected. Combined renal and
hepatic nickel and lead burdens were highest for mink with multiple worm infections,
although only lead accumulations reached statistical significance. Cadmium accumulated to
the greatest extent in the hypertrophied left kidney and liver, whereas nickel and lead were
deposited more readily in the bony spicule of the parasitized right kidney cyst. The relative
distribution of cadmium among renal, hepatic and renal cyst tissues (cast, spicule, worms)
remained unchanged subsequent to D. renale infection, while the proportions of nickel and
lead deposited in hepatic tissue were reduced. Metal burdens in female D. renale were threefold higher than those of male worms, with the difference being attributable to the
substantially greater size of the females. Canonical Correlation Analyses of condition
measures and body metal burdens failed to indicate a direct relationship between infection
intensity and body fat deposits but did confirm a positive association between metal loads and
increased fat levels, along with enhanced gonad weights, neck circumference and reduced
spleen weights. Such associations may be productive aspects for future investigation into the
combined effects of increased metal loads and parasitic infection on the host system.
Chapter 6 - Reutilization of fish-meal wastewater (FMW) as a fertilizer was attempted,
and aerobic biodegradation of the FMW were successfully achieved by microbial consortium
in a 1-ton bioreactor. During the large-scale biodegradation of FMW, the level of DO was
maintained over 1.25 mgl-1, and a strong unpleasant smell remarkably disappeared in the
end. Although the level of total amino acids and the concentrations of N, P and K in the
biodegraded FMW were relatively lower than those in two commercial fertilizers, the
concentrations of noxious components in the biodegraded FMW were much lower than the
standard concentrations. The phytotoxicity of the biodegraded FMW was almost equal to that
of the commercial fertilizers. The fastest growth in hydroponic cultures of red bean and
barley was achieved at 100-fold and 500-fold dilution, respectively, the growth of which was
comparable to those of 1,000-fold diluted commercial-fertilizers. From all above results, it
was concluded that a large-scale biodegradation of FMW was successful and the properties of

Preface

xi

FMW were acceptable. This is the first study to demonstrate aerobic production of liquidfertilizer from FMW.
Chapter 7 - Provision of public parks has long been advocated as an equalising measure
between different elements of society. This study assesses equity of park provision for
different ethnic and income-status populations in the urban area of Birmingham in central
England. Parks in Birmingham were categorized into a two group typology of green areas
suited for more solitary and passive activities (amenity parks) or open spaces designed more
for informal sports or other physical and group activities (recreational parks). Using a
geographical information system, measures of access to these green spaces were computed
for populations of different ethnicities and levels of material deprivation, derived from data
from the 2001 UK Census and the 2004 Index of Multiple Deprivation. Distance-weighted
access scores were calculated and compared for five population groups ranked by relative
deprivation, and for five ethnic groups; Bangladeshis, blacks, Indians, Pakistanis and whites.
Statistical analysis found that there were strong disparities in access with respect to
deprivation whereby the most income-deprived groups were also the most deprived with
regard to access to public parks. There was little evidence of unequal access between ethnic
groups. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Chapter 8 - An idea for developing of new science field, biodynamics, as biophysical
macroscopic theory is propounded. The functioning of living organism as an organized
entirety is the main specificity of the life. Hence it is quite reasonable to describe behaviour
of biological systems in terms of own theoretical basis. In this article a new state variable
vitality as integral characteristic of biological object and measure unit bion are stated. A
quantity biological energy is introduced as energy form related to biological selfregulation.
Quantity synergy is suggested as measure of selfregulation quality. Biological principle for
maximum synergy in healthy living systems is stated. On the basis of variational principle an
equation describing recovery process of a biological object after disturbance is obtained. The
quantity optimal vitality, related to homeostasis, decreases in lifespan scale and its evolution
is described by ordinary differential equation. The potential lifespan maximum of several
species at different life conditions may be calculated at different parameters of the equation.
A wide range of environmental influences on the living organism could be promptly
and easily assessed in the terms of the biodynamics approach. Such an approach could be
used for a simple estimation of a patients health status.
Chapter 9 - Some morphological traits of Antarctic animals could be considered in the
context of a trend to more direct relation between environmental conditions and possible
adaptive mechanisms of animals organism. Penguins are excellent object for biomonitoring.
Here a preliminarily report is presented regarding a new trait, a spot-like coloration (yellow
spot) of the bill, observed on the upper mandible of Gentoo penguin (subspecies Pygoscelis
papua ellsworthii). The spot varied in size and colour. It was recorded among chicks over two
months old and adult birds (normal and molting). The trait had no significant relationship to
the animal' s sex. Among all inspected females 31% and among all inspected males 27%
exhibited beak spot. Three breeding colonies were investigated at three different geographical
locations at the Antarctic Peninsula Livingston Island, South Shetlands (6238 S), Wiencke
Island (64o52 S), and Petermann Island (6510 S). Yellow spot was found with different
frequencies at these three locations: 20%, 36%, and 30%, respectively. All spotted penguins
from the three colonies were 32% when compared to all non-spotted. The possible reasons for
the spot-like coloration are discussed. The trait could be a phenotypic characteristic. It could

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Justin A. Daniels

play some role in the mate choice. A possible connection to carotenoid pigments content does
not be eliminated in the context of Gentoo diet. A probable cause for the beak spot
appearance seems to be the increasing of ozone depletion above Antarctica. The ultraviolet
radiation enhances free radical production. Other studies reported an increase of the flux of
transsulfuration pathway as a defense reaction, resulting in elevated level of cysteine. When
cysteine concentration is raised, an attaching of cysteine to melanin synthesis pathway occurs
and this results in formation of reddish pigments.
Chapter 10 - The Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM) in Thailand covers
approximately 19,000 km2. This protected area complex comprises 11 national parks and 6
wildlife sanctuaries. During 1999-2004, the Danish Government provided financial support to
the Royal Forest Department to manage this forest complex through the ecosystem
management approach. The WEFCOM Project employed rapid ecological assessment (REA)
to determine the current distribution statuses of wildlife species, develop a Geographic
Information System (GIS), and define habitat uses of wildlife. This paper is based upon the
achievements of the WEFCOM Project. It aims to define suitable habitats of selected key
wildlife species in the WEFCOM and to assess the current and desired statuses under a
population viability estimate for those species. The focal wildlife species were sambar
(Cervus unicolor), gaur (Bos gaurus), banteng (Bos javanicus), Asian elephant (Elephas
maximus), and tiger (Panthera tigris. The authors used logistic multiple regression to
determine habitat uses of wildlife and employed minimum dynamic area and landscape
matrix surrounding suitable habitats as criteria to assess population viability. The results
indicate the current suitable habitat mainly remains in Huai Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai
wildlife sanctuaries. In addition, the current viability condition is good for sambar, fair for
gaur, elephant and tiger; and poor for banteng. However, landscape matrices outside the
suitable habitats for all species range from moderate to high connection of native vegetation.
If the project aims to upgrade the viabilities to the next level in the next 10 years, park rangers
and multi-stakeholders have to increase the amount of suitable habitats for all species from
12,630 km2 or 67% of the WEFCOM to 16,750 km2 or 89%. By doing this, the number of
suitable patches would significantly decrease and the mean patch size would increase
substantially, thereby indicating less fragmentation.
Chapter 11 - Riparian landscapes are natural habitats of unique ecological and scenic
values, which are highly sensitive to human intervention and impact. Yet, due to their
qualities, and especially the presence of water, they are also usually attractive for recreation
purposes. This is more so in arid and semi-arid zones like Israel. Nevertheless, in the past, the
importance of riparian landscapes in Israel did not receive adequate attention in policy and
planning. As a result, over the years they were exposed to various negative impacts, including
pollution by industrial and agricultural effluents, exploitation of water for agricultural and
other purposes, and land use conflicts. Although in recent years with the growing awareness
of their ecological and recreational potential, considerable efforts are being invested in the
rehabilitation of deteriorated riparian landscapes, their protection is still deficient.
This chapter reviews and examines policy tools used for the protection of riparian
landscapes in Israel, based mainly on regulations, reports and existing literature. It concludes
by offering some lessons for policy-making in general and suggestions for improving the
protection of riparian landscapes in Israel in particular.
Chapter 12 - To determine the hydraulic characteristics of aquifers and development
potential of deep aquifer for sustainable long-term use, study was undertaken by assessing

Preface

xiii

water levels of different aquifer formations and conducting pumping test in deep aquifer
under Meghna floodplain area of southeastern Bangladesh. Because of arsenic contamination
in shallow groundwater, characterization of deeper aquifers and assess their hydraulic
connectivity is now an important issue in Bangladesh. Study shows that groundwater
pumping for irrigation and other uses cause large seasonal water level fluctuations that is
between 2 and 4.5m, 6.5 and 11m and 6.5m in the shallow, main and deep aquifers,
respectively. The trend of groundwater level fluctuations supports the hydraulic connectivity
of these aquifers. Aquitards separating aquifers are not continuous regionally. This implies
that uncontrolled development of deep aquifers may cause leakage of arsenic from
contaminated shallow depths to aquifers below. Water levels dropping below sea level for
over withdrawal may also cause saline water intrusion as well. However, during the constantdischarge pumping test for deep aquifer, water levels in observation wells open to the shallow
and main aquifers showed no noticeable effect from pumping i.e. under conditions of
moderate groundwater use for public supply, arsenic-rich groundwater in the shallow aquifer
are not likely to be drawn into the deep aquifer. The transmissivity values of the aquifer is
generally favorable for groundwater development and ranged from about 1,070 m2/day to
2,948 m2/day at a distance of 44 m from the pumped well. Transmissivity ranged between
1,570 m2/day and 2,956 m2/day at a distance of 120m. Transmissivity was calculated as
2,385 m2/day using recovery data. Estimated storage coefficient values ranged between
0.0000375 and 0.00268, indicates that the aquifer is confined to leaky-confined or semiconfined in nature.
Chapter 13 - During the last three decades, molecular methods have dramatically
expanded the author view of microbial diversity in natural and engineered systems. A variety
of molecular approaches, including both PCR-based and hybridization-based techniques, have
been applied extensively to the analysis of complex microbial communities and have yielded
new insights. However, the majority of molecular methods that are widely used in microbial
ecology are limited in their ability to encompass the incredible diversity of microbial
communities. DNA microarrays, which were first introduced in the early 1990s, are one of
the fastest growing technologies in biology, and they offer tremendous potential for microbial
ecologists. DNA microarrays consist of nucleic acids spotted within a very small area on
some solid support, and they enable the immobilization and simultaneous hybridization of
hundreds of thousands of nucleic acids. This represents a dramatically higher degree of
multiplexing than is possible with other widely used technologies. In addition, microarrays
offer the advantages of increased speed of detection, low cost, and the potential for
automation. Microarray technology has been used extensively for measuring gene expression
in a wide variety of organisms, including human cells, plants, yeast, and bacteria, but its
application to microbial ecology has been more limited. There are significant challenges to
the use of microarrays in microbial ecology studies, including optimization of specificity and
sensitivity and quantification of targets. However, in recent years several research groups
have made significant progress in overcoming these challenges, and microarrays are
beginning to be applied more frequently to microbial ecology studies in a variety of systems
including terrestrial soils, wetland sediments, and freshwater and marine ecosystems. This
article will provide a brief history of the use of molecular methods in microbial ecology, and
will then review the development of microarray technology, the challenges that exist for
application of microarrays to microbial ecology, the available strategies for overcoming these
challenges, and some recent applications of microarrays to studies in microbial ecology.

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Justin A. Daniels

Chapter 14 - Rising incomes and urbanization, an expanding domestic consumer base


concerned about food quality and safety, and rapidly growing agricultural exports have been
important drivers for the increased attention to food safety in India. But the development of
effective food safety systems is hampered by a number of factors, including: restrictive
government marketing regulations, weak policy and regulatory framework for food safety,
inadequate enforcement of existing standards, a multiplicity of government agencies
involved, weak market infrastructure and agricultural support services. The small farm
structure further limits farmer capacity to meet increasing domestic and export food safety
and SPS requirements. Addressing food safety concerns in India will require adoption of
appropriate legislation, strengthening capacity to enforce rules, promoting adoption of good
agricultural, manufacturing and hygiene practices, greater collective action, and some
targeted investments. Implementing these actions will require joint efforts by the government
and the private sector.
Developing countries are paying increased attention to food safety, because of growing
recognition of its potential impact on public health, food security, and trade competitiveness.
Increasing scientific understanding of the public health consequences of unsafe food,
amplified by the rapid global transmission of information regarding the public health threats
associated with food-borne and zoonotic diseases (e.g. E. coli and salmonella, bovinespongiform encephalopathy (BSE), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARs) and H5N1
avian flu) through various forms of media and the internet has heightened consumer
awareness about food safety risks to new levels globally (Lindsay 1997, Unnevehr 2003,
Buzby and Unnevehr 2003, Kafersteing 2003, Ewen et al. 2006, Bramhmbatt 2005).
Increased understanding of the impact of mycotoxins, which can contaminate dietary staples
such wheat, maize, barley and peanuts, has further raised food security and public health
concerns in many developing countries (Dohlman 2003, Bhat and Vasanthi 2003, Unnevehr
2003).
As developing countries seek to expand agricultural exports especially to OECD
countries, many are receiving a wake-up call on the challenges of meeting both government
and private sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) standards in export markets (Otsuki et al. 2001,
Henson 2003, Unnevehr 2003, World Bank 2005a). Private standards or supplier protocols
have grown in prominence over the past decade as a means to further ensure compliance with
official regulations, to fill perceived gaps in such regulations, and/or to facilitate the
differentiation of company or industry products from those of competitors. Trends in private
standards increasingly tend to blend food safety and quality management concerns (i.e. the
recent creation of ISO 22000), or to have protocols which combine food safety,
environmental, and social (child labor, labor conditions, animal welfare) parameters (Willems
et al. 2005, World Bank 2005). At the same time, increasing globalization of trade introduces
greater risks of cross-border transfer of food-borne illnesses. Recent cases of disease episodes
in the United States resulting from imported food produce, such as cyclospora from
raspberries, hepatitis A from strawberries and salmonella from cantaloupe (Calvin 2003),
illustrate to developing countries the potential food safety challenges that can arise in a more
globalized market.
Weaknesses in food safety systems can have a high cost to society and the global
economy. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 2.2 million people
worldwide die from diarrheal diseases caused by a host of bacterial, viral and parasitic
organisms, which are spread by contaminated water (WHO 2006a). In India, it is estimated

Preface

xv

that 20% of deaths among children under five are caused by diarrheal disease (WHO 2006b).
The SARs outbreak in 2003 in East Asia is estimated to have caused an immediate economic
loss of about 2% of the Regions GDP in the second quarter of that year, even though only
800 people died from the disease (Brahmbatt 2005). The Lowy Institute for International
Policy (2006) estimates that a mild global outbreak of the avian flu can cost the world 1.4
million lives and close to 0.8% of GDP (US$330 billion) in lost economic output. At the
same time, country reactions to protect its citizens from food safety risks can also have large
consequences for exporting countries. Otsuki et al (2001) examined the projected impact of
the EUs new harmonized aflatoxin standard on the value of trade flows to 15 European
countries from 9 African countries and found that it could decrease African exports by 64%
(US$670 million).
Food safety concerns are getting widespread attention in India. The countrys rural
development strategy, for which a key element is the promotion of increased agricultural
exports as a means to foster rural growth and poverty reduction, is coming up against
tightening food safety and SPS standards in prospective markets (World Bank 2006a, 2006b).
From a domestic perspective, the large national market of 1.2 billion people is undergoing
rapid change. Increasing incomes, a growing middle class, increased urbanization and
literacy, and a population highly tuned to international trends fueled by the information
technology boom are creating a large consumer base giving increasing value to food quality
and safety. Improving food safety systems, to meet domestic and export requirements,
however, face a number of policy, regulatory, infrastructural and institutional obstacles.
Chapter 15 - The term pesticide covers a wide range of compounds including
insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides, plant growth
regulators and others. Among these, organochlorine (OC) insecticides, used successfully in
controlling a number of diseases, such as malaria and typhus, were banned or restricted after
the 1960s in most of the technologically advanced countries. The introduction of other
synthetic insecticides organophosphate (OP) insecticides in the 1960s, carbamates in 1970s
and pyrethroids in 1980s and the introduction of herbicides and fungicides in 1970s - 1980s
contributed greatly in pest control and agricultural output. Ideally a pesticide must be lethal to
the targetted pests, but not to non-target species, including man. Unfortunately, this is not, so
the controversy of use and abuse of pesticides has surfaced. The rampant use of these
chemicals, under the adage, if little is good, a lot more will be better has played havoc with
human and other life forms.
Chapter 16 - Ozone has recently received much attention in water treatment technology
for its high oxidation and disinfection potential. The use of ozone brings several benefits but
has a few disadvantages that limit its application in water treatment, including: i) low
solubility and stability in water, ii) low reactivity with some organic compounds and iii)
failure to produce a complete transformation of organic compounds into CO2, generating
degradation by-products that sometimes have higher toxicity than the raw micropollutant. To
improve the effectiveness of ozonation process efficiency, advanced oxidation processes
(AOPs) have recently been developed (O3/H2O2, O3/UV, O3/catalysts). AOPs are based on
ozone decomposition into hydroxyl radicals (HO), which are high powerful oxidants. This
chapter offers an overview of AOPs, focusing on the role of solid catalysts in enhancing
ozone transformation into HO radicals. Catalytic ozonation is a new way to remove organic
micropollutants from drinking water and wastewater. The application of several homo- and
heterogeneous ozonation catalysts is reviewed, describing their activity and identifying the

xvi

Justin A. Daniels

parameters that influence the effectiveness of catalytic systems. Although catalytic ozonation
has largely been limited to laboratory applications, the good results obtained have led to
investigations now under way by researchers worldwide. It is therefore timely to provide a
summary of achievements to date in the use of solid materials to enhance ozone
transformation into HO radicals.
Chapter 17 - Historically, the majority of microarray work has been restricted to welldefined model organisms. This was primarily due to the limited availability of genomic or
transcriptomic sequence data and the then high cost involved in developing microarrays.
However, recent technological developments have greatly enhanced the speed of generating
the underpinning sequence data for non-model species, and have opened up more costeffective approaches for microarray production to make them far more affordable for
researchers at the lower end of the budget range. These developments have been seized upon
by the environmental genomics community within the UK. The creation of a network of
closely integrated facilities for sequencing, microarray printing and bioinformatics has
opened the gateway for the study of environmentally relevant organisms. Here, the authors
describe the infrastructure for microarray development within the UK, and the diverse
applications for which they are currently being used.
Versions of these chapters were also published in Environmental Research Journal,
Volume 3, Number 1, published by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. They were submitted for
appropriate modifications in an effort to encourage wider dissemination of research.

SHORT COMMENTARY

In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

THE GLOBAL EXTENT OF BLACK C IN SOILS:


IS IT EVERYWHERE?
Evelyn Krull, Johannes Lehmann, Jan Skjemstad,
Jeff Baldock and Leonie Spouncer
THE ROLE OF BLACK CARBON IN GLOBAL CLIMATE MODELS
The latest projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimate
a 3C increase in global temperatures within the next 100 years (IPCC 4 th Assessment Report,
2007), and global warming is seen as a major driver in accelerating decomposition of soil
organic matter, resulting in increased production of CO2 (e.g. Davidson and Janssens, 2006).
The 2007 IPCC report recommended coupling models of terrestrial biogeochemical and
atmospheric and oceanic processes in order to improve general circulation models and to
recognize the quantitative value of soil organic carbon (SOC) in the global carbon cycle.
Estimates of CO2 emissions from soil rely on predictions of the response of different
SOC pools to global warming and correct estimation of the size of these pools. In comparison
to the pool representing the most stable and biologically unreactive fraction, commonly
referred to as passive or inert organic carbon (IOC), the decomposition of labile C is expected
to be faster as a response to temperature increase. IOC is a fraction of the SOC pool that is not
readily available for microbial decomposition and has turnover times exceeding 100 years
(e.g. Krull et al., 2003).
Black C (BC) is usually considered the most abundant form of IOC and is defined as the
carbonaceous residue of incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuels (Schmidt and
Noack, 2000). BC is important to several biogeochemical processes; for example, BC
potentially modifies climate by acting as a potential carbon sink for greenhouse gases
(Kuhlbusch, 1998) and leads to increasing solar reflectance of the Earths atmosphere, but
also to a heating of the atmosphere (Crutzen and Andreae, 1990). BC production from fossil
fuel combustion contributes to aerosol C, decreasing surface albedo and solar radiation (IPCC
4th Assessment Report). Due to its condensed aromatic structure, BC has a low biochemical
reactivity. 14C ages of BC in soils vary between 1160 and 5040 years (e.g. Schmidt et al.
2002).

Evelyn Krull, Johannes Lehmann, Jan Skjemstad et al.

Figure 1. Distribution of soilsused for the prediction of BC in surface soils and global NPP.

Figure 2. Distribution of BC%SOC and %SOC in surfaces soils across latitudes.

Baldock (2007) reported that BC constitutes up to 60% of SOC, indicating that BC can
make up a significant part of SOC affecting the response of SOC to temperature changes and
the overall turnover time of SOC. Thus, the effect of such a large and unreactive C pool must
be effectively integrated into global C cycle and climate models. However, the latest IPCC
report regards BC only as an aerosol and not as part of SOC, despite an earlier
recommendation to the IPCC to better gauge the influence of BC on the global carbon
cycle as the result would ensure a more accurate global black C budget and a better
understanding of the role of BC as a potential sink in the global C cycle. (2006 IPCC
guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories; appendix 1). The lack of incorporating

The Global Extent of Black C in Soils: Is it Everywhere?

soil BC in global climate change assessments may be largely due to the lack of global
databases on BC in soils and sediments and the understanding of factors and processes that
may influence BC contents in soils (climate, soil texture, primary productivity and fire
abundance).
In order to provide reliable projections of future CO2 emissions from soils, due to global
warming, it is important to consider the global distribution of soil BC. Through an initial
assessment of the World Soil Archive (http://library.wur.nl/isric/) we demonstrate the
variability and trends of global soil BC distribution between different climates and soil types
and discuss the implications of this chemically recalcitrant form of C on the global C cycle.
By doing this, we also demonstrate that current methods exist to routinely analyse BC and in
the future to develop a global BC map.

ARE THERE ROUTINE METHODS TO GENERATE A GLOBAL BC MAP?


We have developed a rapid fourier-transform infrared-based technique that provides
predictive capability for major soil properties, including BC content. BC was quantified by a
novel mid-infrared (MIR) method coupled with partial least squares (PLS) (Janik et al., 2007)
that allowed rapid analysis of a large number of samples, not feasible by other published
methods (Hammes et al., 2007). This method was originally developed and calibrated on
Australian soils (Janik et al., 2007); however, subsequently, we were able to verify that the
predictive capacity of the MIR technique for soils from other parts of the world was robust in
most cases.

BC IN WORLD SOILS: WHAT DRIVES BC PRODUCTION


AND DECOMPOSITION?
Our initial assessment took advantage of the large collection of soils that constitute
part of the ISRIC world soil information database (http://library.wur.nl/isric/). We obtained
over 400 samples that span all major climate zones and soil types across most parts of the
world (Fig. 1). Utilising the MIR/PLS technique, we developed a database that illustrates for
the first time the predicted proportion of BC in this large soils dataset. We hope that this
initial dataset may become an incentive for the rigorous establishment of a global BC map,
data from which may then be incorporated into future IPCC reports and C cycle models.
Figure 2 shows the proportion of BC (as % of total SOC: BC%SOC) as well as total
SOC contents across northern and southern hemispheres. These data show that BC in surface
soils (A and A/B horizons) is ubiquitous in large parts of the world and occurs in the majority
of the sampled locations. The variability was large, resulting in BC%SOC varying from over
50% to almost 0%. The soils richest in BC occur in latitudes of 20-30 in both hemispheres,
situated mostly in central and South America and southern parts of Africa. These areas
correspond to tropical climates with a pronounced dry season in winter (Aw in the Koeppen
classification). In higher latitudes in the northern hemisphere (60-70), BC contents were also
high and were associated with an increase in total SOC (Fig. 2). These areas are classified as

Evelyn Krull, Johannes Lehmann, Jan Skjemstad et al.

humid-temperate, constantly moist climates (Cf in Koeppen classification). Higher SOC


content at high latitudes results from cool climates and low decomposition rates, which
promotes accumulation of organic matter.
Despite the high spatial variability of BC%SOC, soils with a high proportion of BC fell
largely in the soil group of Vertisols. Vertisols occur worldwide in seasonal climate zones and
in lower relief positions (Richardson and Vepraskas, 2000). Such areas of deposition would
favour accumulation of BC through erosion and deposition. Another factor contributing to the
high amounts of BC%SOC in Vertisols could be the comparably high proportion of clay
(known to stabilize soil organic matter) and the type of clay (smectitic). The MIR-predicted
data showed that Vertisols were amongst the soil types with the highest clay contents
(average 44%). High clay content may promote retention of fine BC. However, clay alone is
not a determining factor for high BC%SOC. Oxisols and Ultisols, having the highest clay
content (from MIR prediction) of all analysed soil types (45%), had the lowest BC %SOC
values. Oxisols, and to a lesser degree Ultisols, are mostly found in high-rainfall tropical
climates, lacking seasonal rainfall (Af in Koeppen classification) and having a lower fire
activity. While fire activity and BC content are both high in the southern hemisphere this
relationship is not consistent and does not concur with findings in parts of the northern
hemisphere where fire activity is lower, yet BC%SOC is still high (Carmona-Moreno et al.,
2005).
Thus, a combination of factors, such as climate (the necessity of a pronounced dry
season to ensure fire occurrence), position in the landscape (areas of accumulation) and
mineralogy (high amount of expansive clays) may be instrumental in promoting the formation
and/or retention of BC%SOC in soils. As illustrated in Figure 1, net primary productivity alone
did not appear to be a significant factor globally as it is highest in equatorial regions where
BC%SOC was lowest.
While we show here that BC contents in surface soils are often significant, BC can
also accumulate deeper in the soil. In addition, soil erosion and transport of BC may result in
significant accumulation of BC in rivers, estuaries and off-shore sediments (Krull et al.,
2006).Thus, the inclusion of BC in global climate models will require a thorough assessment
of BC contents not only in surface but in deeper soil horizons as well as aquatic sediments.
The analyses conducted in this study indicate that methods exist to accomplish BC
measurements for large areas. However, the high variability of the data indicates that broad
empirical measurements and extrapolation over large areas are not sufficient for the aim of
producing a global BC map. Thus, the next steps in a comprehensive assessment of global BC
stocks and distribution have to include a detailed and consistent sampling format as well as a
thorough assessment of the processes that control sources and sinks of BC.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We thank Janine McGowan for assistance in the analyses of the samples and both her and
Ryan Farquharson for review of an earlier version of the manuscript. We thank CSIRO Land
and Water for supporting the analyses of this work and ISRIC for access to samples from the
World Soils Database.

The Global Extent of Black C in Soils: Is it Everywhere?

REFERENCES
Baldock, J.A. Composition and cycling of organic carbon in soils (2007), in Marschner, P.
and Rengel, Z. (eds.), Nutrient Cycling in Terrestrial Ecosystems. Springer, Berlin.
Carmona-Moreno, C., Belward, A., Malingreau, J.P., Hartley, A., Garcia-Alegre, M.,
Antonovskiy, M., Buchshtaber, V., Pivovarov, V. (2005), Characterizing Interannual
Variations in Global Fire Calendar Using Data From Earth Observing Satellites, Global
Change Biology 11, 1537-1555.
Crutzen, P.J. and Andreae, M.O. (1990), Biomass burning in the tropics: impact on
atmospheric chemistry and biogeochemical cycles, Science 250, 1669-1678.
Davidson, E.A. and Janssens, I.A. (2006), Temperature sensitivity of soil carbon
decomposition and feedbacks to climate change, Nature 440, 165-173.
Hammes, K. et al. Comparison of quantification methods to measure fire-derived
(black/elemental) carbon in soils and sediments using reference materials from soil,
water, sediment and the atmosphere. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 21, GB3016,
doi:10.1029/2006GB002914 (2007).
IPCC 4th Assessment report (2007), Working Group I: The physical science basis of climate
change, http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/wg1-report.html
2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, vol. 4, Agriculture, Forestry
and other Land use, Appendix 1, http://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/public/2006gl/
vol4.htm
Janik, L.J., Skjemstad, J.O., Shepherd, K.D., and Spouncer, L.R. (2007) The Prediction of
Soil Carbon Fractions Using Mid-Infrared-Partial Least Square Analysis. Australian
Journal of Soil Research 45, 73-81.
Krull, E.S., Baldock, J.A., and Skjemstad, J.O. (2003), Importance of Mechanisms and
Processes of the Stabilisation of Soil Organic Matter for Modelling Carbon Turnover,
Functional Plant Biology 30, 207-222.
Kuhlbusch, T.A.J. (1998), Black carbon and the carbon cycle. Science 280, 1903-1904.
Richardson, J.L. and Vepraskas, M.J. (2000), Wetland Soils: Genesis, Hydrology,
Landscapes, and Classification. CRC Press, Florida.
Schmidt, M.W.I. and Noack, A.G. (2000), Black carbon in soils and sediments: Analysis,
distribution, implications, and current challenges, Global Biogeochemical Cycles 14,
777-793.
Schmidt, M.W.I., Skjemstad, J.O., and Jger, C. (2002), Carbon isotope geochemistry and
nanomorphology of soil black carbon: Black chernozemic soils in central Europe
originate from ancient biomass burning, Global Biogeochemical Cycles 16, 1123
doi:10.1029/2002GB001939.

RESEARCH AND REVIEW STUDIES

In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 1

CURRENT AND EMERGING MICROBIOLOGY ISSUES


OF POTABLE WATER IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
William J. Snelling1, Catherine D. Carrillo2, Colm J. Lowery1,
John E. Moore3, John P. Pezacki4, James S. G. Dooley1
and Roy D. Sleator5
1

Centre for Molecular Biosciences, School of Biomedical Sciences,


University of Ulster, Cromore Road, Coleraine, Co., Londonderry,
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, BT52 1SA,
2
The Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences, National Research Council of Canada,
100 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A OR6.
3
Bureau of Microbial Hazards, Health Canada,
251 Sir Frederick Banting Driveway, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1A 0L2
4
Department of Bacteriology, Northern Ireland Public Health Laboratory,
Belfast City Hospital, Belfast, United Kingdom, BT9 7AD
5
Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

ABSTRACT
Water is vital for life; for commercial and industrial purposes and for leisure
activities in the daily lives of the worlds population. Diarrhoeal disease associated with
consumption of poor quality water is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality
in developing countries (especially in children <5 years old). In developed countries,
whilst potable water is not a leading cause of death, it can still pose a significant health
risk. Water quality is assessed using a number of criteria, e.g. microbial load and nutrient
content which affects microbial survival, as well as aesthetic factors such as odor. In
water systems, the presence of disinfectant, low temperatures, flow regimes and low
organic carbon sources do not appear to be conducive to microbial persistence. However,
frequently this is not the case. A variety of human pathogens can be transmitted orally by

Correspondence: Dr Roy Sleator, Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, University College Cork, Ireland. Phone: 00
353 21 490 1366, Fax: 00 353 21 490 3101, email: r.sleator@ucc.ie

12

William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery et al.


water and in the developed world water quality regulations require that potable water
contains no microbial pathogens.
Chlorine dioxide is a safe, relatively effective biocide that has been widely used for
drinking water disinfection for 40 years. Providing the water is of low turbidity, standard
chlorination procedures are sufficient to prevent the spread of planktonic bacteria along
water mains. However, despite this, bacterial contamination of water distribution systems
is well documented, with growth typically occuring on surfaces, including pipe walls and
sediments. Rivers, streams and lakes are all important sources of drinking water and are
used routinely for recreational purposes. However, due to fouling by farm and wild
animals, these sources can be contaminated with microbes, e.g. chlorine resistant
Cryptosporidium oocysts, no matter how pristine the source or well maintained the water
delivery system. The high incidence of Cryptosporidium in surface water sources
underlines the need for frequent monitoring of the parasite in drinking water. The use of
coliforms as indicator organisms, although considered relevant to most cases, is not
without limitations, and is thus not a completely reliable parameter of water safety, e.g.
Campylobacter contamination cannot be accurately predicted by coliform enumeration.
Furthermore, the presence of biofilms and bacterial interactions with protozoa in water
facilitate increased resistance to antimicrobial agents and procedures such as disinfectants
and heating, e.g. Legionnaires disease caused by Legionella pneumophila.
The high cost of waterborne disease outbreaks should be considered in decisions
regarding water utility improvement and treatment plant construction. The control of
human illnesses associated with water would be aided by a greater understanding of the
interactions between water-borne protozoa and bacterial pathogens, which until relatively
recently have been overlooked.

INTRODUCTION
Currently, over 1 billion people worldwide have no access to safe drinking water (CDC,
2007a). In the developed world water quality regulations require that potable water does not
contain any microbial pathogens (Percival and Walker, 1999). Residents of affluent nations
are remarkably lucky to have high-quality, safe drinking water supplies that most residents of
modem cities enjoy, particularly when considered in contrast to the toll of death and misery
that unsafe drinking water causes for most of the world's population (Hrudey and Hrudey,
2007). The supply of clean drinking water is a major, and relatively recent, public health
milestone (Berry et al., 2006). However, some may presume that drinking-water disease
outbreaks are a thing of the past, but complacency can easily arise (Hrudey and Hrudey,
2007). Increasing human populations and urbanisation have placed burdens on water sources,
i.e. rivers, streams and lakes, used to provide potable water to most metropolitan areas
(Calderon et al., 2006). Excreta from humans, pets, livestock and wildlife, e.g. foxes, present
in these source waters have the potential to harbour hundreds of pathogenic microorganisms
of public health concern (Leclerc et al., 2002). In developed countries, major outbreaks of
waterborne infections have fuelled widespread public concern regarding the microbiological
quality of potable water (De Paula et al., 2007; Pankhurst and Coulter, 2007).
Potable water can be a source of various potentially infectious microorganisms, which in
the majority of cases are contracted by ingestion, but can also be contracted via inhalation of
aerosol droplets or by direct dermal exposure (Stojek and Dutkiewicz, 2006). Rivers, streams
and lakes, which are not only important sources of drinking water but are also routinely used
in the pursuit of human leisure interests, are often contaminated with microbes, e.g. chlorine

Current and Emerging Microbiology Issues of Potable Water in Developed Countries 13


resistant Cryptosporidium oocysts, no matter how pristine the source, or well maintained the
water delivery system (Snelling et al., 2006). Fecal contamination of surface waters can occur
via wastewater discharge, farming activities and fouling by wild animals. Perhaps the best
known potential pathogens are certain strains of Escherichia coli and related Gram-negative
species of fecal origin belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae family, usually referred to as
coliforms, which are commonly used as sanitary indicators of potable water quality (Stojek
and Dutkiewicz, 2006). Important agents of waterborne infections include various genera of
Gram-negative bacteria such as Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Legionella,
Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, Vibrio cholerae, mycobacteria (Gram positive), enteroviruses
and intestinal protozoa (Giardia, Cryptosporidium) (Stojek and Dutkiewicz, 2006).
Potable water distribution systems generally present a hostile environment for growth of
microorganisms due to low nutrient levels as well as the presence of disinfection residuals
(Lngmark et al., 2007; Momba et al., 2007). Yet despite this, biofilms form ubiquitously in
environments that have been subjected to a range of disinfection processes including
chlorination and ultra-violet (UV)-treatment (Momba et al., 1998). Most of the bacteria in
drinking water distribution systems, e.g. M. avium, L. pneumophila, and E. coli, are
associated with biofilms. In biofilms, their nutrient supply is better than in water, and biofilms
can provide shelter against disinfection (Lehtola et al., 2007). Pathogenic bacteria and viruses
entering water distribution systems can survive in biofilms for at least several weeks, even
under conditions of high-shear turbulent flow, and may be a risk to water consumers (Lehtola
et al., 2007). Also, considering the low number of virus particles needed to result in an
infection, their extended survival in biofilms must be taken into account as a risk for the
consumer (Lehtola et al., 2007). Recent inquiries into the microbial ecology of distribution
systems have found that pathogen resistance to chlorination is affected by microbial
community diversity and interspecies relationships (Berry, et al., 2006). Research indicates
that multispecies biofilms are generally more resistant to disinfection than single-species
biofilms (Berry, et al., 2006).
Control of microbial growth in drinking water distribution systems, often achieved
through the addition of disinfectants, is essential to limiting waterborne illness, particularly in
immunocompromised subpopulations (Berry et al., 2006). Whilst disinfection residuals
within distribution systems reduce the growth of autochthonous and allochthonous pathogens
and reduce the potential re-growth of heterotrophic bacteria, they do not insure the sterility of
distribution waters (Payment et al., 1993). The omnipresence of heterotrophs does not in itself
constitute a potential health hazard, they can be used to evaluate the microbiological quality
of the water and the efficacy of water treatment and distribution processes, as well as the
biological stability of distributed waters (Lngmark et al., 2007).
Waterborne diseases occur worldwide, and outbreaks caused by the contamination of
community water systems have the potential to cause disease in large numbers of consumers
(Table 1) (Karanis et al., 2007). These cases create a lack of confidence in potable water
quality and in the water industry in general; waterborne outbreaks have economic
consequences far beyond the cost of health care for affected patients, their families and
contacts. In addition to outbreaks caused by contaminated potable water, there is also a risk
associated with the accidental ingestion of recreational (or other) waters. National statistics on
outbreaks linked to contaminated water have been available in the USA since 1920, and since
1971, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the US Environmental Protection Agency
(USEPA), and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists have maintained a

Table 1. Summaries of Notifiable Diseases in the United States in 2005 (McNabb et al., 2007)

16

William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery et al.

collaborative surveillance system for collecting data pertaining to the occurrence and causes
of outbreaks of waterborne disease (Karanis et al., 2007). In Europe during 198696, 277
outbreaks associated with drinking and recreational water were reported from 16 European
countries (Kramer et al. 2001).

VIRUSES
Viruses are possibly the most hazardous of all enteric pathogens and have relatively low
infectious doses (Santamara and Toranzos 2003). Viruses are found in very low
concentrations in treated water due to the effect of dilution and to the potabilization process
(Gutirrez et al., 2007). For this reason, it has been proposed that large amounts of water need
to be collected in order to detect them. A negative result might not be meaningful, while a
positive result is important, particularly when viruses are detected in small water samples
(Gutirrez et al., 2007).Thus, the paucity of data regarding waterborne viruses makes it
difficult to determine the true risk they represent and precludes the development of plans to
prevent viral transmission through contact with environmental water (De Paula et al., 2007).
It has been proposed that more than 140 different types of viruses, apparently not
eliminated by massive purification treatments, can be found in drinking water (Gutirrez et
al., 2007). The main source for water contamination is human excreta (Gutirrez et al., 2007).
In fact, viruses infiltrate the ground, penetrating to depths greater than 67 m and can remain
latent there for several months, as long as the temperature remains low and the environment
humid (Gutirrez et al., 2007). Under these conditions they can easily reach aquifers. Enteric
pathologies due to the presence of Rotavirus (RV), Norovirus (NV), Astrovirus (HAstV),
Adenovirus (Ad), Hepatitis A (HAV), polio, Coxsakie, and echo type Enteroviruses, among
others, have been reported to be associated with consumption of fresh water (Gutirrez et al.,
2007).
Enteroviruses are a group of viruses including the polioviruses, coxsackieviruses,
echoviruses, and others (CDC, 2007c). In addition to the three different polioviruses, there are
62 non-polio enteroviruses that can cause disease in humans: 23 Coxsackie A viruses, 6
Coxsackie B viruses, 28 echoviruses, and 5 other enteroviruses (CDC, 2007c). Non-polio
enteroviruses are second only to rhinoviruses - causative agent of the "common cold" as the
most common viral infectious agents in humans (CDC, 2007c). The enteroviruses cause an
estimated 10-15 million or more symptomatic infections per year in the United States (CDC,
2007c). All three types of polioviruses have been eliminated from the Western Hemisphere,
as well as Western Pacific and European regions, by the widespread use of vaccines (CDC,
2007c). Most people who are infected with an enterovirus exhibit no clinical manifestations
of disease. Infected individuals who do exhibit clinical signs of disease usually develop either
mild upper respiratory symptoms (a "summer cold"), a flu-like illness with fever and muscle
aches, or illness with an associated rash (CDC, 2007c). A less common, though none the less
possible, manifestation of the illness is "aseptic" or viral meningitis (CDC, 2007c). Rarely,
infected individuals may develop an illness that affects the heart (myocarditis) or the brain
(encephalitis) or causes paralysis (CDC, 2007c).
Human noroviruses (NoVs) are a significant cause of non-bacterial gastroenteritis
worldwide with contaminated drinking water a potential transmission route (Bae and Schwab,

Current and Emerging Microbiology Issues of Potable Water in Developed Countries 17


2008). As members of the Caliciviridae family, NoVs (previously known as Norwalk-like
viruses) are small (27 nm), icosahedral, non-enveloped human enteric viruses that cause
acute gastroenteritis (Bae and Schwab, 2008). Due to their non-enveloped structure which is
similar to other human enteric viruses such as poliovirus (PV), coxsackievirus, and echovirus,
NoVs are presumed to be as resistant to environmental degradation and chemical inactivation
as the aforementioned viruses (Bae and Schwab, 2008).
The most common vehicles for Hepatitis A virus (HAV) transmission are ingestion of
contaminated water, consumption of contaminated foods and contact with infected
individuals (De Paula et al., 2007). Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is an emerging food borne
pathogen in developing countries, e.g. Asia, Africa and Latin America (Skovgaard, 2007).
Transmitted by the fecaloral route, infection which results in liver inflammation, is linked to
the consumption of swine; the primary source of the virus for humans. The incidence of
sporadic cases has begun to increase recently in developed countries, but it is uncertain
whether these cases were food- or water borne (Skovgaard, 2007). The incidence of hepatitis
E infection is highest in adults between the ages of 15 and 40. Children are also succeptable
to infection but are less likely to become symptomatic. Mortality rates are generally low as
Hepatitis E is a self-limiting disease; symptoms generally dissipate by themselves and the
patient usually recovers. It is spread mainly through fecal contamination of water supplies or
food; person-to-person transmission is uncommon. Outbreaks of epidemic Hepatitis E most
commonly occur following disruption to water supplies caused by heavy rainfalls and
monsoons.
Viruses can be inactivated in the environment by the breakage of their capsid and the
liberation of the contained nucleic acid, which can be easily degraded when deprived of the
capsid protection (Gutirrez et al., 2007). Environmental degradation of viruses can result
from extremes in pH, thermal inactivation, sunlight and predation or release of virucidial
agents from endogenous microorganism in environmental water (Hurst 1988; Yates etal.,
1985). Chlorine, the most commonly used drinking water disinfectant, can also inactivate
enteric viruses if sufficient dose and contact time are provided (Ellis, 1991). Despite some
opinions to the contrary, this means that detection of viral protein (VP) in laboratory assays is
not a sufficient criterion as to the infectious nature of the virus (Gassilloud et al., 2003).

TOXIGENICITY
Microcystis aeruginosa is a gas vacuolate, bloom-forming cyanobacterium that is of
interest from a water quality perspective because of its ability to produce a range of toxic
compounds (Saker et al., 2005). The cyclic peptides, also known as microcystins, are
produced by several species of cyanobacteria including M. aeruginosa, and have been
implicated in the death of humans as well as domestic and wild animals (Saker et al., 2005).
These compounds inhibit protein phosphatases 1 and 2A in a similar manner to okadaic acid,
and have been linked to liver cancer in humans (Saker et al., 2005). To date, more than 60
microcystin variants have been identified and chemically characterized (Saker et al., 2005). In
recognition of their toxic properties, the World Health Organization has adopted a maximum
allowable concentration in drinking water of 1gl-1 (WHO 1998). With appropriate water
treatment, maximum exposure to total microcystins is probably less than 1 gl-1, based on the

18

William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery et al.

above data. While average exposure is generally well below this level (WHO, 1998), not all
water supplies are treated by filtration or adsorption; many are untreated or simply
chlorinated (WHO, 1998). In addition to microcystins, many strains of Microcystis are known
to produce other peptides including aeruginosins, anabaenopeptilides, cyanopeptolins,
anabaenopeptins and microginins, which show a diverse range of bioactivities (Saker et al.,
2005).

FOODBORNE CONTAMINATING BACTERIA


Several foodborne pathogens, e.g. Salmonella typhimurium, Campylobacter jejuni,
Yersinia enterocolitica, Mycobacteria, Escherichia. coli O157:H7 and Cryptosporidium, are
common intestinal contaminants frequently found in both farmed animals and wildlife (Doyle
and Erickson 2006), and in several cases are carried asymptomatically (Snelling et al., 2005;
Thompson et al., 2007). These pathogens are generally shed in feces in large populations and
can be transmitted to surface water, both directly and indirectly (Doyle and Erickson 2006).
Soil as a recipient of solid wastes is able to contain enteric pathogens in high concentrations,
which can then be spread to surface water (Figure 1) (Santamara and Toranzos, 2003).
Although most E. coli strains are harmless, E. coli O157:H7 produces a powerful toxin
that can cause severe human illness (CDC, 2007b). E. coli O157:H7 has been found in the
intestines of livestock (CDC, 2007b), is part of the natural microbiota of the soil, and is
therefore also associated with manure, crops, minimally processed ready to eat foods and
surface water (Selma et al., 2007; Himathongkham et al., 2007). Infections often lead to
bloody diarrhea, and in some individuals, particularly children under 5 years of age and the
elderly, the infection can cause haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), in which the red blood
cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail (CDC, 2007b). E. coli O157:H7 is a major global
cause of foodborne illness (CDC, 2007b). Based on a 1999 estimate, 73,000 cases of infection
and 61 deaths occur in the United States each year. People can become infected with E.coli
O157:H7 in a variety of ways (CDC, 2007b). Though most illness has been associated with
eating undercooked, contaminated ground beef, people have also become ill from eating
contaminated bean sprouts or fresh leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach (CDC,
2007b). In addition, infection can occur after drinking raw unpasturized milk and after
swimming in or drinking sewage-contaminated water (CDC, 2007b).
Salmonella are enteric bacterial pathogens, of which mainly S. enterica and S.
typhimurium cause a variety of food and water-borne diseases ranging from gastroenteritis to
typhoid fever (Ly and Casanova 2007). Previous investigations have found that sewage
effluent regularly contain Salmonella and Campylobacter (Kinde et al., 1997). Globally, C.
jejuni is the major cause of human bacterial diarrhoeal illness and is by far the most common
Campylobacter species associated with human illness. The major C. jejuni reservoir is poultry
(Snelling et al., 2005). However, C. jejuni has been linked to several drinking water-related
epidemics in Finland (Lehtola et al., 2006). C. jejuni is not normally able to multiply in
drinking water or in biofilms, although it may survive in biofilms and/or within protozoa
(Lehtola et al., 2006; Snelling et al., 2006).

Current and Emerging Microbiology Issues of Potable Water in Developed Countries 19

Figure 1. Diagram showing the different, most important cycles of transmission for maintaining Giardia
and Cryptosporidium. As well as direct transmission, water and food may also play a role in
transmission. Question marks indicate uncertainty regarding the frequency of interaction between
cycles (Hunter and Thompson, 2005).

Shigellosis is a global human diarrhoeal disease leading to dysentery and is caused by S.


dysenteriae, S. flexneri, S. boydii and S. sonnei (Niyogi et al., 2005). Shigella dysenteriae type
1 produces severe disease and may be associated with life-threatening complications (Niyogi
et al., 2005). The symptoms of shigellosis include diarrhoea and/or dysentery with frequent
mucoid bloody stools, abdominal cramps and tenesmus (Niyogi et al., 2005). Transmission
usually occurs via contaminated food, e.g. ready to eat salads (Ghosh et al., 2007), water,
livestock manure, or through person-to-person contact (Niyogi et al., 2005). Of the estimated
165 million cases of Shigella diarrhoea that occur annually, 99% occur in developing
countries with 69% of episodes occuring in children under 5 years of age (Kotloff et
al.,1999).
Mycobacterium is a genus of Actinobacteria, given its own family. Mycobacteria are
aerobic and generally non-motile bacteria, that are characteristically acid-alcohol fast (Ryan
and Ray, 2004). Environmental mycobacteria are common heterotrophic bacteria in soils and
natural waters, especially in boreal drinking water systems (Torvinen et al., 2004).
Mycobacteria are classified as an acid-fast Gram-positive bacterium due to their lack of an
outer cell membrane (Ryan and Ray, 2004). All Mycobacterium species share a characteristic
cell wall, thicker than in many other bacteria, making a substantial contribution to the
hardiness of this genus (Ryan and Ray, 2004). Therefore, compared to most other bacterial
species, mycobacteria are exceptionally resistant to chlorination and heating (Torvinen et al.,
2004). Some thermotolerant species, including the important mycobacterial pathogens M.
avium complex (MAC) and M. xenopi, tolerate heating and may even survive in hot water
(>60) (Torvinen et al., 2004). Thus, they may survive chemical treatments at waterworks and
enter the distributed water and finally tap water, where their occurrence has been known since
the beginning of the 20th century.

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William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery et al.

Tuberculosis (TB) affects one-third of the world's population, claiming a life every 10
seconds and global mortality rates are increasing, especially in developing countries
(Sacchettini et al., 2008; Tabbara, 2007). The incidence of tuberculosis is increasing with the
increase in the HIV infected population and increased strain drug resistance (Tabbara, 2007).
Complex interactions involving humans, domestic animals, and wildlife create environments
favorable to the emergence of new diseases (Palmer, 2007). Today, reservoirs of M. bovis
subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP), the causative agent of tuberculosis in animals and a serious
zoonosis, exist in wildlife (Palmer, 2007). The presence of these wildlife reservoirs is the
direct result of spillover from domestic livestock, especially cows, in combination with
anthropogenic factors such as translocation of wildlife, supplemental feeding of wildlife and
wildlife populations reaching densities beyond normal habitat carrying capacities (Palmer,
2007).
Toxigenic Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, is a native inhabitant of the
aquatic environment (rivers, estuaries, and coastal waters) which is transmitted through
drinking water and still remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in many
developing countries, especially in Asia and Africa (Chomvarin et al., 2007). In aquatic
environments V. cholerae associates with the chitinous exoskeletons of copepod molts, which
serves as a surface of nutrients thus facilitating biofilm formation and induces competence for
natural transformation (Blokesch and Schoolnik, 2007). Despite more than a century of
investigation, much remains to be discovered about how pathogenic strains of V. cholerae
interact with the human host and how the biology of disseminating stool V. cholerae drives
devastating cholera outbreaks (Nelson et al., 2007). The V. cholerae species encompasses
more than 200 serogroups (Blokesch and Schoolnik, 2007). Cholera is an ancient secretory
diarrheal disease caused by the O1 and O139 serogroups of V. cholerae (Nelson et al., 2007).
Despite the dramatic reduction of mortality rates due to the development of oral rehydration
solution, the emergence of multiple drug-resistant V. cholerae may reduce the efficacy of
antimicrobial treatment and alter the dynamics of outbreaks (Nelson et al., 2007). V. cholerae
is a bacterial pathogen of the gastrointestinal tract and the secreted toxin is largely responsible
for the massive fluid loss that may reach between 0.5 and 1.0 liter per hour (Nelson et al.,
2007).
Yersinia (family Enterobacteriaceae) are faculatative anerboic bacteria, of which Y.
enterocolitica are foodborne pathogens which are mostly associated with human disease. Y.
enterocolitica is responsible for outbreaks of acute human gastroenteritis and chronic sequela,
e.g. reactive arthritis, and livestock morbidity, e.g. mastitis (Meusburger et al., 2007;
Rudwaleit et al., 2000; Shwimmer et al., 2007). Y. pseudotuberculosis (food-borne route) and
Y. pestis (flea-borne zoonotic disease) can also cause disease in humans. Rodents are the
major reservoirs of Y. enterocolitica; and while humans are the primary hosts other mammals
may also be infected. Infection may occur either through blood (in the case of Y. pestis) or
occasionally via consumption of food products (especially vegetables, milk-derived products
and meat) contaminated with infected urine or feces. An important property of Yersinia is its
ability to multiply at temperatures close to 0 C (Skovgaard, 2007). The minimum infection
dose of Yersinia is relatively high (>100,000), and in many countries, e.g. Denmark, Yersinia
interest and concern have declined (Skovgaard, 2007).

Current and Emerging Microbiology Issues of Potable Water in Developed Countries 21

PROTOZOAN PARASITES
At least 325 water-associated outbreaks of parasitic protozoan disease have been reported
(Karanis et al., 2007). North American and European outbreaks accounted for 93% of all
reports and nearly two-thirds of outbreaks occurred in North America (Karanis et al., 2007).
Over 30% of all outbreaks were documented from Europe, with the UK accounting for 24%
of outbreaks, worldwide (Karanis et al., 2007). Giardia duodenalis and C. parvum account for
the majority of outbreaks (132; 40.6% and 165; 50.8%, respectively), Entamoeba histolytica
and Cyclospora cayetanensis have been the aetiological agents in nine (2.8%) and six (1.8%)
outbreaks respectively, while Toxoplasma gondii and Isospora belli have been responsible for
three outbreaks each (0.9%) and Blastocystis hominis for two outbreaks (0.6%) (Karanis et
al., 2007). Balantidium coli, the microsporidia, Acanthamoeba and Naegleria fowleri were
responsible for one outbreak each (0.3%) (Karanis et al., 2007).
Waterborne parasites produce transmission stages which are highly resistant to external
environmental conditions, and to many physical and chemical disinfection methods routinely
used as bacteriocides in drinking water plants, swimming pools or irrigation systems
(Gajadhar and Allen, 2004). Resistant stages include cysts of amoebae, Balantidium, and
Giardia, spores of Blastocystis and microsporidia, oocysts of Toxoplasma gondii, Isospora,
Cyclospora and Cryptosporidium and eggs of nematodes, trematodes, and cestode(Gajadhar
and Allen, 2004). These exogenous transmission stages are microscopic in size and of low
specific gravity, which facilitate their easy dissemination in fresh water, or seawater
(Gajadhar and Allen, 2004). The exogenous stages of waterborne parasites possess outer
surfaces capable of withstanding a variety of physical and chemical treatments (Gajadhar and
Allen, 2004). The resistant surfaces are comprized of multiple polymeric layers of lipids,
polysaccharide, proteins or chitin (Gajadhar and Allen, 2004). Examples of these are the two
protein layers of coccidian oocysts derived from the coalescence of wall-forming bodies, the
chitinous wall of microsporidian spores, the multi-layered (inner lipid/protein-, middle
protein/chitin-, outer protein/mucopolysaccharide) shell of Ascaris eggs, and the impermeable
embryophore of the Echinococcus egg which is constructed of polygonal blocks of keratinlike protein held together by a cement substance (Gajadhar and Allen, 2004).
The intestinal protozoan parasites Cryptosporidium (Apicomplexan) and Giardia (G.
duodenalis) are major global causes of diarrhoeal disease in humans (Smith et al., 2007).
Significantly, normal concentrations of chlorine and ozone used in mass water treatment are
not adequate to kill these microbes (Smith et al., 2007), which have life cycles suited to both
waterborne and foodborne transmission (Smith et al., 2007). Giardia causes intestinal
malabsorption and diarrhoea (giardiasis) in humans and other mammals worldwide (Smith et
al., 2007). Giardia is one of the most prevalent pathogens that should be removed from
drinking water (Smith et al., 2007). In developing countries, the prevalence of human
giardiasis is on average 20% (443%), compared with 5% (37%) in developed countries,
where it is associated mainly with travel and waterborne outbreaks (Smith et al., 2007). G.
duodenalis assemblages A and B have been found in humans and most mammalian orders
(Smith et al., 2007). Giardiasis is a disease with economic ramifications due to the large
impact on domestic animals such as cattle and sheep (Smith et al., 2007). The role of animal
transmission of human giardiasis is unclear, but the greatest risk of zoonotic transmission
seems to be from companion animals such as dogs and cats. Interestingly, the capacity of

22

William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery et al.

Acanthamoeba to predate Cryptosporidium oocysts has recently been demonstrated (GmezCouso et al., 2007). Free-living-amoeba (FLA) may act as environmentally resistant carriers
of Cryptosporidium oocysts and, thus, may play an important role in the transmission of
cryptosporidiosis (Gmez-Couso et al., 2007).
Zoonotic Cryptosporidium parvum and anthroponotic C. hominis are the major cause of
human cryptosporidiosis, although other species including C. meleagridis, C. felis, C. canis,
C. suis, C. muris and two corvine genotypes of Cryptosporidium have been associated with
human gastroenteritis (Xiao and Ryan 2004; Caccio et al. 2005). Cryptosporidium can
survive for months in a latent form outside hosts, as its oocysts retain their infectivity for
several months in both salt and fresh water (Fayer et al. 1998; Sunnotel et al., 2006a).
Cryptosporidium causes self-limited watery diarrhoea in immunocompetent subjects, but has
far more devastating effects in the immunocompromized and in some cases can be lifethreatening due to dehydration caused by chronic diarrhoea (Caccio 2005, Chen et al. 2005).
Cryptosporidiosis is responsible for significant neonatal morbidity in farmed livestock and
causes weight loss and growth retardation, leading to significant economic losses (McDonald
2000). Over the last two decades, increasing numbers of cryptosporidiosis (in particular water
related) outbreaks have been recorded in developed countries (Craun et al. 2005). In 1993, the
largest Cryptosporidium outbreak was registered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA where
403,000 people were infected through contaminated drinking water (MacKenzie et al. 1994).
This outbreak was caused by C. hominis (Peng et al. 1997), and the total cost of outbreakassociated illness was estimated at >$96 million in both medical costs and productivity losses
(Corso et al. 2003).
Cryptosporidium has also been associated with treated water in swimming and wading
pools (Craun et al. 2005). Shellfish have the ability to filter large amounts of water and
concentrate oocysts within their gills (Gomez-Couso et al. 2006). Thus, despite prevention
measures, e.g. standard UV depuration treatment, the consumption of raw or undercooked
shellfish, may still be a potential health risk (Sunnotel et al., 2007). Also, the use of surface
water for irrigation can indirectly cause human infection via the consumption of contaminated
fresh produce, e.g. lettuce (Shigematsu et al., 2007). Outbreaks have been reported in
healthcare facilities and day-care centres, within households, among bathers and water sports
enthusiasts in lakes and swimming pools, and in municipalities with contaminated public
water supplies or people served by private water supplies. In 2005 the European Basic
Surveillance Network (BSN) recorded 7,960 human cases of cryptosporidiosis from 16
countries.
Microsporidial gastroenteritis; a serious disease of immunocompromized people, can
have a waterborne etiology (Graczyk et al., 2007). Microsporidia are obligate intracellular
eukaryotes parasitizing a wide range of invertebrates and vertebrates with over 1,200 species,
of which 14 are opportunistic human pathogens, with Encephalitozoon intestinalis, E. hellem,
E. cuniculi, and Enterocytozoon bieneusi being the most common (Graczyk et al., 2007).
Currently, Microsporidia are on the Contaminant Candidate List of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency due to their unknown transmission routes, technologically challenging
identification and the difficult treatment of human infections (Graczyk et al., 2007).
Considerable evidence indicates involvement of water in the epidemiology of
microsporidiosis, however, this link has not been conclusively substantiated (Graczyk et al.,
2007). Risk factor analysis for encephalito zoonosis has previously suggested groundwater as
a source of infection, and a massive outbreak of microsporidiosis was epidemiologically

Current and Emerging Microbiology Issues of Potable Water in Developed Countries 23


linked to a drinking water distribution system (Cotte, et al., 1999). More accurate
Microsporidial epidemiological data is urgently required to accurately assess the importance
of this emerging pathogen.

EMERGING AND OPPORTUNISTIC PATHOGENS


Opportunistic microbes are a subset of the emerging pathogens and include species of
both fecal and environmental origin. Treated potable water contains a variety of microbes that
are not well characterized (Stelma et al., 2004). Many of these organisms grow slowly and
require nutrient-poor media for culturing (Stelma et al., 2004). Although there is evidence that
these microbes are generally not hazardous to the general healthy population, there is a
possibility that some of them may be opportunistic pathogens and may be capable of causing
adverse health effects in individuals with impaired body defences (Stelma et al., 2004).
Examples of opportunistic bacterial pathogens of potable water origin include Aeromonas
hydrophila, L. pneumophila, M. avium, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. There is no reason to
assume that the currently known opportunistic pathogens are the only opportunistic pathogens
indigenous to potable water (Stelma et al., 2004). Many cases of respiratory infections and
digestive system infections are still of unknown etiology and it is possible that some of them
could be due to pathogens that are currently unknown (Stelma et al., 2004).
Opportunistic bacterial pathogens have the potential to reproduce in the natural
environment, particularly in the presence of increased temperatures and nutrients, often when
associated with free-living protozoa (Lngmark et al., 2007). Free-living protozoa are in most
cases non-parasitic, however, some species are known to cause human illness (Lngmark et
al., 2007). The potential significance of free-living protozoa, e.g. amoeba, as potential
environmental reservoirs for aquatic pathogens has been recognized for more than twenty
years (King et al., 1988), as has the often complex interspecies relationships between mixed
biofilm populations, e.g. bacteria and protozoa (Snelling et al., 2006; Lngmark et al., 2007).
Yet despite this, with the exception of L. pneumophila, relatively little attention has been
payed to studying and understanding interactions between free-living protozoa and other
smaller human pathogens (Brown and Barker, 1999; Snelling et al., 2006). Some
microorganisms have evolved to become resistant to protozoa digestion and these amoebaresistant microorganisms include established bacterial pathogens, such as Legionella spp.,
Chlamydophila pneumoniae, M. avium, P. aeruginosa, and C. jejuni, and emerging pathogens
such Simkania negevensis, Parachlamydia acanthamoebae, and Legionella-like amoebal
pathogens (Snelling et al., 2006).
The fate of internalized bacteria can be divided into three main outcomes;
i)

Bacteria which multiply and cause lysis of amoebal cells (FLA), e.g. Legionella and
Listeria monocytogenes.
ii) Bacteria which multiply without causing cell lysis, e.g. Vibrio cholera.
iii) Bacteria which survive without multiplication, e.g. mycobacteria (Snelling et al.,
2006).

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William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery et al.

FLA feed on bacteria, fungi and algae and as such are ubiquitous predators that control
microbial communities while at the same time acting as reservoirs for many human
pathogens. FLAs are thus often regarded as the Trojan horses of the microbial world
(Chang and Jung, 2004; Greub and Raoult 2004; Molmeret et al., 2005). Dictyostelium
discoideum is an established host model for several pathogens including, P. aeruginosa,
Mycobacterium spp., and L. pneumophila (Snelling et al., 2006). Significantly, numerous
bacterial species survive disinfection treatments when internalized within protozoa, compared
to the exposed and thus more sensitive planktonic state which forms the basis of current
disinfection policies (Snelling et al., 2005b; King et al., 1998; Whan et al., 2006). Interactions
such as these are unaccounted for in current disinfection models (Berry, et al., 2006).
FLA provide habitats for the environmental survival of L. pneumophila, which have been
observed undergoing binary fusion within intracellular vacuoles of amoeba (Atlas, 1999;
Colbourne et al., 1984). To date it has never been shown that Legionella can multiply in its
own natural environment outside protozoa (Atlas, 1999; Colbourne et al., 1984). Legionella
pneumophila are fastidious bacteria which develop mostly in water, causing
legionnairesdisease [(LD), legionellosis, or atypical pneumonia/flu-like illness] in humans
(Stout et al. 1992; Stojek and Dutkiewicz, 2006). In environmental water bodies L.
pneumophila proliferates intracellularly in more than 15 protozoan genera, e.g.
Acanthamoeba, Hartmannella, Vahlkamphia and Ehinamoeba (Steinert et al., 1994).
Infection of humans, generally the elderly and immunocompromized, occurs after inhalation
of aerosolized bacteria from contaminated water sources (Steinert et al., 1994). The infectious
particle is unknown, but may be excreted as legionellae-filled vesicles, intact legionellaefilled amoebae, or free legionellae that have lysed their host cell, resulting in L. pneuomphila,
not amoeba, persisting within the respiratory tract (Steinert et al., 1994).
The processing of L. pneumophila by A. castellanii shows many similarities to monocyte
phagocytosis, e.g. the uptake of L. pneumophila by coiling phagocytosis (Steinert et al.,
1994). Phagosomelysosome fusion is prevented based upon L. pneumophila expressing
dot/icm genes that code for a putative large membrane complex which forms a type IV
secretion system that is used to alter the endocytic pathway (Steinert et al., 1994). Genes such
as hfq appear to play a major role in exponential phase regulatory cascades of L. pneumophila
(McNealy et al., 2005; Solomon and Isberg, 2000). Globally, potable water supplies which
harbour L. pneumophila are important sources of community acquired LD (Stout et al. 1992).
LD accounts for an estimated 8,000 to 18,000 cases of hospitalized community-acquired
pneumonia in the United States annually (Phares et al., 2007). Individuals are most often
infected with Legionella by inhaling bacteria-laden aerosol droplets, e.g. via bathing, but can
also become infected by the oral route through drinking water or via traumatized skin or
mucous membranes (Stojek and Dutkiewicz, 2006). Approximately 35% of all LD cases
reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are acquired in health care
facilities (Phares et al., 2007).
M. avium is a common cause of systemic bacterial infection in patients with AIDS
(Miltner and Bermudez, 2000; Snelling et al., 2006). Infection with M. avium, commonly
occurs through the gastrointestinal tract and has been linked to bacterial colonization of
domestic water supplies, where A. castellanii may serve as an environmental host for M.
avium AIDS (Miltner and Bermudez, 2000). M. avium can also survive within A. polyphaga
cyst outer walls and bacterial growth occurs in cocultures (Steinert et al., 1998; Snelling et al.,
2006). M. avium enters and replicates in A. castellanii, and similar to mycobacteria within

Current and Emerging Microbiology Issues of Potable Water in Developed Countries 25


human macrophages, inhibits lysosomal fusion and replicates in vacuoles that are tightly
juxtaposed to the bacterial surfaces within amoebae (Cirillo et al., 1997).
Growing M. avium in amoebae enhances invasion and intracellular replication of the
bacterium in human macrophages, the intestinal epithelial cell line HT-29, as well as in mice
(Miltner and Bermudez, 2000), and also increases resistance to rifabutin, azithromycin, and
clarithromycin, which might have significant implications for prophylaxis of M. avium
infection in AIDS patients (Miltner and Bermudez, 2000).

INDICATOR METHODS
For more than thirty years the measurement of bacteria of the coliform group has been
extensively relied on as an indicator of water quality (Yez et al., 2006). Among the
coliforms, the specific determination of E. coli contamination can be performed as one of the
best means of estimating the degree of recent fecal pollution (Edberg et al., 2000). The
European Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC (Anon, 1998) defines that the isolation of
coliforms using Lactose TTC agar with Tergitol (Tergitol-7 agar) by membrane filtration
(Anon, 2000) be the reference method for the enumeration of total coliforms, including E.
coli in drinking water (Yez et al., 2006). However, numerous outbreaks, e.g.
Crytosporidium, Campylobacter, and viruses, have made it clear that the presence of bacterial
indicators of fecal contamination does not consistently correlate with pathogen levels (De
Paula et al., 2007).
Alternatively, a number of instrumental methods for the rapid determination of
microorganisms based on their metabolic activity have been developed, but not really utilized,
for example, impedance (Madden and Gilmour, 1995), conductance (Gibson, 1987),
chemiluminescence and fluorescence (Van Poucke and Nelis, 2000). Different chromogenic
and/or fluorogenic culture media have also been developed in recent years (Manafi, 2000).
One is TBX agar medium, a modification of Tryptone bile agar medium where the substrate
5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl-b-d-glucuronide (BCIG) is added. This substrate is cleaved by
the enzyme -d-glucuronidase (GUD) that is produced by approximately 95% of the E. coli
strains investigated (Adams et al., 1990), and the released chromophore produces easy to read
blue-green coloured E. coli colonies. Furthermore, the TBX agar method complies with the
ISO/DIS Standard 16649 for the enumeration of E. coli in food and animal foodstuffs (Anon,
2001). In addition, different chromogenic media such as Chromocult Coliform agar (CC
agar), and coli ID agar have been developed for the simultaneous detection of total coliforms
and E. coli, based on the presence of chromogenic substrates for the enzymes galactosidase
(Lac) and -D-glucuronidase (GUD) (Geissler et al., 2000). Results from the evaluation of
these two media have been reported previously (Finney et al., 2003). In spite of their
advantages, the main drawback of chromogenic media is the relatively high cost for routine
analysis laboratories where a great number of analysis are performed (Yez et al., 2006).
The results obtained with the combination of the two media, Tergitol agar and TBX agar, for
the enumeration of total coliforms and E. coli have been comparable to those obtained with
the individual chromogenic media assayed, CC agar and coli ID (Yez et al., 2006).
However, the combined method has the advantage of reduced analytical cost since the TBX
agar is used only for total coliform-positive samples (Yez et al., 2006). In addition, using

26

William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery et al.

this small modification, the enumeration of E. coli in total coliforms-positive samples can be
performed in only two hours, maintaining the advantages of rapid turn-around time and the
specificity of the individual chromogenic media (Yez et al., 2006). The combination of
Tergitol agar with TBX fulfils the European Drinking Water Directive where the ISO
Standard 9308 is indicated for the analysis of total coliforms and E. coli (Yez et al., 2006).
Moreover, this small modification provides a simple and comparatively cost-effective method
that is as specific and rapid as the chromogenic media, and which can be used easily by
laboratories dedicated to routine analysis of water (Yez et al., 2006).

RAPID DETECTION METHODS


Many bacterial pathogens are routinely grown on selective/differential agar or broth, e.g.
Shigella (Niyogi et al., 2005). Infection with E. coli O157:H7 is diagnosed by detecting the
bacterium from stool samples (CDC, 2007b). About one-third of laboratories that culture
stool still do not test for E. coli O157:H7, so it is important to request that the stool specimen
be tested on sorbitol-MacConkey (SMAC) agar for this organism (CDC, 2007b). All
individuals presenting with bloody diarrhoea should have their stool tested for E. coli
O157:H7 (CDC, 2007b). However, a major limitation of enrichment methods is the length of
time required to complete the testing, since at least two days are needed for the complete
identification of bacterial typical colonies (Yez et al., 2006). To overcome this problem,
new techniques are continually being developed, and in particular, molecular biology
methods appear to be interesting alternatives for rapidly detecting pathogens in water samples
(Yez et al., 2006). To maximise the useful impact of epidemiological data, it is important to
be able to rapidly detect and identify low numbers of oocysts from different sample types,
including water, and if possible to ascertain if they are viable (Sunnotel et al., 2006a;
Sunnotel et al., 2006b). It is important to be able to accurately differentiate between nonpathogenic and pathogenic species of Cryptosporidium, and between different
Cryptosporidium isolates of the same species (Sunnotel et al., 2006a; Sunnotel et al., 2006b).
Also, the rapid and accurate detection and identification of E. coli O157:H7 and V. cholerae
O139 pathogens is crucial for diagnosis, treatment and eventual control of the contagious
disease outbreak (Jin et al., 2007).
Accurate and reliable epidemiological and molecular typing techniques are crucial for
tracing sources of pathogen infection, the recognition of which is important for the
implementation of preventive measures (Fendukly et al., 2007). Methods include ribotyping,
amplified fragment length polymorphism analysis (AFLP), pulsed field gel electrophoresis
(PFGE), restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis (RFLP), restriction endonuclease
analysis (REA), and arbitrary primed PCR (Fendukly et al., 2007). Nevertheless, molecular
techniques are unfortunately still incompatible with most routine water laboratories because
of the expense and the need for trained personnel (Angles d'Auriac et al., 2000).
Disappointingly, despite the steady improvement in modern molecular biology techniques,
the epidemiology of many infections remains unclear (Snelling et al., 2005b). This confusing
epidemiological evidence is partly because of the lack of standard global typing methods and
communication between laboratories (Wassenaar and Newell 2000). However, these

Current and Emerging Microbiology Issues of Potable Water in Developed Countries 27


problems are being addressed via initiatives like CAMPYNET (Wassenaar and Newell 2000)
and PulseNet for standard molecular typing.
Nucleic acid based detection methods such as PCR and real-time PCR are more rapid and
sensitive than traditional culturing techniques. However, they are limited by the number of
targets that can be detected in a single assay. PCR products can be multiplexed, but typically
not more than six targets can be assayed at a single time, and optimizing such a complex
reaction can be challenging. For example, primers must not interact with one another to form
primer-dimers, and amplification of each target must proceed with equal efficiency. Analysis
of the products of the reaction requires size separation by electrophoresis, thus amplicons
must be of significantly different size in order to be easily distinguished. Real-time PCR
(qPCR) is more rapid as it monitors the amount of PCR products as they are being produced
and does not require size separation (Kubista et al. 2006; Zhang and Fang, 2006). In addition
qPCR is more sensitive than traditional PCR methods and can estimate the initial
concentration of nucleic acids. As with standard PCR methods, multiplexing qPCR is limited
by the difficulty in optimizing reactions so that all targets are amplified with similar
efficiencies. Moreover, the number of assays that can be multiplexed is limited by the number
of fluorescent dyes that can be distinguished in a single reaction (typically no more than 4,
depending on the specifications of the instrument being used).
Saker et al., (2007) found that PCR can be used to detect inocula for cyanobacterial
populations and therefore provides a useful tool for assessing which conditions particular
species can grow into bloom populations. PCR methods were particularly useful when the
concentration of the target organism was very low compared with other organisms (Saker et
al., 2007).
The European Working Group for Legionella Infections (EWGLI) has implemented the
AFLP and more recently the sequence-based typing (SBT) to define its collection of L.
pneumophila serogroup 1 strains (Fendukly et al., 2007). However, the SBT has not been
widely used for genotyping non-serogroup 1 L. pneumophila isolates (Fendukly et al., 2007).
Of the many phenotypical, immunological and molecular typing methods which have been
implemented for the characterization and epidemiological typing of L. pneumophila, only the
AFLP and the SBT techniques have gained acceptance by the EWGLI. Both methods were
shown to have good reproducibility and accuracy and obviated the need to submit Legionella
strains between microbiological laboratories in different countries (Fendukly et al., 2007).
The AFLP gel images were, however, more difficult to interpret (Fendukly et al., 2007). This
method allows for comparison of the allelic profile of an isolate to previously assigned allele
numbers of 6 genes in the following order: flaA, pilE, asd, mip, mompS and proA (Fendukly
et al., 2007).
Some enteric viruses grow poorly in cell culture, which constitutes a problem when
investigating strategies for virus control and prevention (Atmar and Estes, 2001; De Paula et
al., 2007). Current methods of detecting such viruses in environmental water samples rely on
genome amplification using molecular techniques such as qualitative and quantitative realtime reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR) (De Paula et al., 2007).
Worldwide, virus detection in environmental and potable water samples is becoming an
important strategy for preventing outbreaks of infection with waterborne viruses, e.g. HAV
(De Paula et al., 2007).
To evaluate the public health threat posed by V. cholerae occurring in water, a rapid and
accurate method for detection of toxigenic V. cholerae is essential (Chomvarin et al., 2007).

28

William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery et al.

The culture method (CM), which is routinely used for assessing water quality, has not proven
as efficient as molecular methods because this notorious pathogen survives in water mostly in
the viable but non-culturable state (VBNC) (Chomvarin et al., 2007). The isolation and
identification of V. cholerae by CM is expensive, time-consuming, labour intensive, and
unable to precisely distinguish between toxigenic V. cholerae and non-toxigenic V. cholerae
(Chomvarin et al., 2007). Fluorescent monoclonal antibody combined with molecular genetic
based methods can demonstrate the presence of toxigenic V. cholerae in the aquatic
environment (Chomvarin et al., 2007).
The last three decades have witnessed exponential progress in our understanding of the
biology of pathogens. The complete sequencing of the human genome and of many microbial
pathogens associated with potable water have rapidly fuelled the development of gene array
technology, improved pathogen detection systems and analysis methods. A host of different
molecular techniques for studying the transmission dynamics and detection of drug resistant
pathogens have been developed (Katoch et al., 2007).
DNA microarrays (or gene arrays) consist of segments of DNA called probes or reporters
arrayed on a solid surface (Call, 2005; Lemarchand, 2004). DNA spots are typically very
small, on the micrometer length scale, and can be arrayed in high density with hundreds to
thousands of spots present on a single array. Detection using microarrays is based on the
hybridization of fluorescently labelled nucleic acids (RNA or DNA) isolated from the test
matrix to these probes, and subsequent measurement of fluorescence at each spot.
Microarrays allow the simultaneous detection of thousands of targets in a single assay. Thus,
a single array could be used for the detection of a wide range of pathogens, virulent strains of
a particular pathogen, antimicrobial resistant strains, and even molecular typing. Microarrays
have been applied to microbial quality monitoring of water (Lee et al., 2006; Lemarchand et
al., 2004; Maynard et al., 2005). However, methods involving direct hybridization onto
microarrays are inherently lower in sensitivity relative to PCR because of the lack of
oligonucleotide amplification. For example, Lee et al. (2006) were only able to detect
pathogens in wastewater at levels of 2 x 108 copies of the target gene, using direct
hybridization of DNA isolated from wastewater. Straub et al. (2005) have developed a
microarray-based system for analysis of RNA isolated from microbial communities. This
system shows great promise, as detection of RNA could be linked to the presence of viable
cells; however, the sensitivity of this system is currently too low to be useful for pathogen
detection.
Sensitivity can be greatly improved by PCR amplification of the target, before
hybridization to the array. However, production of multiple PCR products can be labour
intensive and slow. Amplification of universal genes (i.e. rRNA genes) gets around this
problem as a single primer set can be used to amplify a segment from a gene that is conserved
among the pathogens of interest. Species-specific sequence variability within the amplicon is
detected by hybridization of the PCR products to a microarray. Using this method, with the
23s rRNA gene, Lee et al. (2006) demonstrated an exponential increase in the sensitivity of
their array to 20 copies of the target gene. Maynard et al. (2005) used a similar strategy, but
improved discriminatory power of their array by the inclusion of multiple genes (cpn60, 16s
rRNA and wecE ). They were able to detect 100 copies of a target gene, but this detection
level was decreased when the genomic DNA of interest was in a background of complex
DNA mixtures. PCR amplification favors the amplification of the most abundant bacterial
species and low-level targets may be underrepresented, or undetectable on the array. This is

Current and Emerging Microbiology Issues of Potable Water in Developed Countries 29


an important problem, as pathogens are likely to represent a small proportion of the microbial
communities in water supplies. Kostic et al. (2007) were able to overcome this problem to a
degree by using a unique labelling method (sequence-specific end-labelling of
oligonucleotides) and inclusion of competitive oligonucleotides during labelling. They were
able to detect pathogens which comprised 0.1% of the total microbial community analyzed.
Wu et al. (2006) used a method of total DNA amplification (multiple displacement
amplification) to non-specifically amplify total genomic DNA isolated from contaminated
groundwater prior to microarray hybridization. This method seems promising, as it appears to
eliminate the bias of PCR based amplification, while increasing the sensitivity of the
microarray-based assay.
Microarrays have proven to be useful tools for monitoring microbial communities in
water and environmental samples. However, there are practical limitations in the use of
microarray-based approaches including the requirement of specialized equipment and trained
personnel. Automation of array systems would contribute significantly to the ease of
deployment of these systems. Suspension arrays, such as the Luminex 100 system, are
particularly amenable to automation (Baums et al., 2007; Gilbride et al., 2006). These arrays
work on similar principles to planar microarrays, but they are rapid, cost effective, flexible
and provide high reproducibility. In these systems, probes are immobilized onto solid surfaces
of microspheres that are labelled with fluorophores (up to 100 colours are available) to
facilitate their identification. After hybridization, the beads are analyzed in a flow cytometer.
A red laser identifies the bead, and a green laser registers if a target has been captured. This
system was found to be effective for detecting six different fecal indicating bacteria in
environmental samples (Baums et al., 2007). Straub et al. (2005) have developed a
comprehensive system for sample preparation and pathogen detection called BEADS
(biodetection enabling analyte delivery system). This system incorporates immunomagnetic
separation to capture cells for concentration and purification of the analytes, a flow through
thermal cycler and detection of PCR products on a suspension array. Using this system with
river water, Straub and colleagues were able to detect 10 cfu of E. coli. When multiplexed
with Shigella and Salmonella, sensitivity was reduced, but 100 cfu of each organism could be
detected.
Biosensor technologies offer the promise of portable devices delivering reliable results
within short periods of time. Biosensors can be defined as analytical devices incorporating a
biological material such as specific antibodies or DNA probes to confer specificity, integrated
within a transducing microsystem (optical, electrochemical, thermometric, piezoelectric,
magnetic or micromechanical) (Lazcka et al., 2007; Gilbride et al., 2006). Biosensors can be
incorporated into miniaturized microfluidic devices commonly referred to as lab-on-a-chip
devices. Typical Lab-on-a-chip devices contain wells for samples and storage of reagents,
and microchannels for distribution of the samples and reagents to reaction chambers. They are
connected to an instrument for control and detection of reactions by biosensors and to a
computer for data analysis. The use of such devices reduces reagent costs, increases speed of
analysis, minimizes handling steps, and provides portability, capability for parallel operations
and the automation of complex assays. Several biological assays have been miniaturized and
automated, including PCR, qPCR, DNA electrophoresis and microarrays, and immunoassays
(Chen et al., 2007). A hand held device comprising electrochemical biosensors was
successfully used to screen environmental water samples for 8 pathogens, within 3-5 h
(LaGier et al., 2007). The detection limit of the device was equivalent to 10 cells of Karenia

30

William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery et al.

brevis when purified genomic DNA was assayed with the device. The scale of such devices,
in terms of the number of targets that can be analyzed at a time, is still limited. The
incorporation of high-density microarrays into integrated microfluidic devices containing
biosensors has the potential to address the important issues of sensitivity and assay
automation while maintaining the high information content of a microarray. Such systems
may enable the reliable real-time monitoring of microbial communities, and detection of
pathogens in water systems. While current devices show promise, there is a need to improve
sensitivity, to improve specificity when dealing with complex samples, to provide portability
and low cost in order to gain widespread use at water treatment facilities.

CONCLUSION
In most developed countries, the removal or inactivation of the majority of pathogens,
e.g. Cryptosporidium oocysts, can be accomplished by conventional water treatment
technology, which generally includes flocculation, coagulation, sedimentation, filtration and
chlorination (Betancourt and Rose 2004). Conventional treatment consists of
coagulation/flocculation, sedimentation, and filtration (Sunnotel et al., 2006a).
Implementation of multiple barriers to safeguard drinking water is recommended as pathogen
loads vary during the season, with peak loads during early spring and late autumn (Ferguson
et al. 2003). The high occurrence of many important human pathogens in surface water
sources underlines the need for frequent monitoring of the parasite in drinking water (Frost et
al. 2002). The high cost of waterborne disease outbreaks should be considered in decisions
regarding water utility improvements and the construction of treatment plants (Morgan-Ryan
et al. 2002). The integration of watershed and source water management and protection,
scientific management of agricultural discharge and run-off, pathogen or indicator organism
monitoring for source and treated water, outbreak and waterborne disease surveillance is
needed to reduce waterborne transmission of human diseases (Ferguson et al. 2003). Water
treatment facilities employing second-line treatment practices such as UV irradiation and
ozone treatment can alleviate the danger imposed by chlorine resistant pathogens, e.g.
Cryptosporidium (Keegan et al. 2003).
However, outbreaks of waterborne illness can still occur in developed countries, because
of malfunction or mismanagement of water treatment facilities (Ferguson et al. 2003). In
these cases, hazard analyses protocols (microbiological hazards based on fecal coliforms (FC)
and turbidity (TBY) as indicators) for critical control points (CCPs) within each facility may
help to minimise the risk of contaminated water distribution in cases of system component
failure, where CCPs include raw resource water, sedimentation, filtration and chlorinedisinfection (Jagals and Jagals 2004).
Without knowing the occurrence of pathogens in water it is difficult to determine what
risk they present to consumers of contaminated potable water (Karanis et al., 2007).
Standardized methods are required to determine the occurrence of both established and
emerging pathogens in raw untreated water abstracted for potable water, water treatment
systems, potable water, and also recreational waters (Karanis et al., 2007). Also, because of
the potential for pathogens to interact within protozoa and/or biofilms, the total populations of
potable water must be assessed and monitored, e.g. how do populations vary with seasonality

Current and Emerging Microbiology Issues of Potable Water in Developed Countries 31


and from one country to another? An improved understanding of the microbial ecology of
distribution systems is necessary to design innovative and effective control strategies that will
ensure safe and high-quality drinking water (Berry, et al., 2006).
Better education and increased awareness by the general public and pool operators could
potentially reduce the number and impact of swimming pool and other recreational waterrelated outbreaks (Robertson et al. 2002a). Improved detection methods, with the ability to
differentiate species, can be useful in the assessment of infection and identification of
contamination sources. These will also provide vital data on the levels of disease burden due
to zoonotic transmission (Fayer 2004; Sunnotel et al., 2006a). The roles of humans, livestock
and wildlife in the transmission of microbial pathogens remain largely unclear for many
different areas. The continued and improved monitoring (using appropriate molecular
methods) of pathogens in surface water, livestock, wild life and humans will increase our
knowledge of infection patterns and transmission of pathogens in potable water (Fayer 2004;
Sunnotel et al., 2006a).
For zoonotic pathogens which are spread both directly and indirectly to potable water, a
wide array of interventions have been developed to reduce the carriage of foodborne
pathogens in poultry and livestock, including genetic selection of animals resistant to
colonisation, treatments to prevent vertical transmission of enteric pathogens, sanitation
practices to prevent contamination on the farm and during transportation, elimination of
pathogens from feed and water, additives that create an adverse environment for colonization
by the pathogen, and biological treatments that directly or indirectly inactivate the pathogen
within the host (Doyle and Erickson, 2006; Sunnotel et al., 2006a). To successfully reduce the
carriage of foodborne pathogens, it is likely that a combination of intervention strategies will
be required (Doyle and Erickson, 2006). Collaborative efforts are needed to decrease
environmental contamination and improve the safety of produce. There is a very real need for
studies that monitor the quality of the water as well as for policies and investments that focus
on sanitation (De Paula et al., 2007).
Unfortunately, in developed countries, the currently adopted short-term and blinkered
strategy of simply detecting pathogens, e.g. a positive/negative Cryptosporidium result,
without further species and isolate information impedes any significant or meaningful
epidemiological analysis and/or effective implementation of intervention strategies. Because
of the current necessity to minimise costs, current molecular methods (outlined previously)
and future nanotechnology based methods are not being routinely employed, and thus may
never fulfil their maximum potential.
This situation demands significant and immediate attention and collaborative input from
governments and water industries world-wide resulting in a more concerted effort from both
scientists and policy makers to standardise the global epidemiological response. Currently,
due to the significant amount of work involved in sample collection and statistical analysis,
there is a time lag of approximately 2-3 years in attaining up to date pathogen data (see CDC
table 1). A global data base and collective goals for biological contaminant loading are vital
for achieving safe potable water. More funding is needed to speed up this process, and to
better educate the general public of the advantages of effective intervention strategies.
Globally, rapid and accurate monitoring and species typing must be carried out routinely, not
just when outbreaks occur. There is also a need for much more accurate and conclusive
information on the overall microbial populations present in water and their relationships to
one another symbiotic, parasitic or otherwise (Snelling et al., 2006). Once successfully

32

William J. Snelling, Catherine D. Carrillo, Colm J. Lowery et al.

introduced in developed countries, then and only then, can this template be effectively applied
to the developing world.
If successful the substantial economic cost (clinical costs and lost working hours) of
water borne pathogens might, in time, be reimbursed through improved epidemiological data
collection which, with proactive intervention, will dramatically reduce the health and
economic burden of waterborne disease.

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In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 2

VERMICULTURE BIOTECHNOLOGY:
THE EMERGING COST-EFFECTIVE AND
SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY OF THE 21ST CENTURY
FOR WASTE AND LAND MANAGEMENT TO SAFE AND
SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION
Rajiv K. Sinha1, Sunil Herat 2 , Gokul Bharambe 3, Swapnil Patil3,
Uday Chaudhary3, Priyadarshan Bapat3, Ashish Brahambhatt3
David Ryan3, Dalsukh Valani3, Krunal Chauhan3, R. K. Suhane4
and P. K. Singh4
1

Visiting Senior Lecturer, School of Engineering (Environment),


Griffith University, Nathan, Campus, Brisbane, QLD-4111, Australia
2
Senior Lecturer, School of Engineering (Environment), Griffith University
3
School of Engineering (Environment), Griffith University
4
Scientists, Rajendra Agriculture University, Bihar, India
Keywords: Vermicomposting; Vermifiltration; Vermiremediation; Vermi-agro-production;
Vermitreatment-Self-Promoted Odor-Free Process; Earthworm Gut A Bioreactor;
Earthworms Reduce Greenhouse Gases; Earthworms Stimulate Microbial Degradation;
Vermicompost Rich in Minerals and Hormones; Vermifiltered Water - Chemicals and
Pathogen Free and Nutritive.

1. INTRODUCTION
A revolution is unfolding in vermiculture studies (rearing of useful earthworms species)
for multiple uses in environmental management and sustainable development. (Martin, 1976;

Principal and Corresponding Author: Rajiv.Sinha@griffith.edu.au

42

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

Satchell, 1983; Bhawalkar and Bhawalkar, 1994; Sinha et.al 2002; Fraser-Quick, 2002).
Vermiculture biotechnology promises to provide cheaper solutions to following
environmental and social problems plaguing the civilization
1) Management of municipal and industrial solid wastes (organics) by biodegradation
and stabilization and converting them into useful resource (vermicompost) THE
VERMI-COMPOSTING TECHNOLOGY (VCT) ;
2) Treatment of municipal and some industrial (food processing industries) wastewater,
purification and disinfection - THE VERMI-FILTRATION TECHNOLOGY
(VFT);
3) Removing chemical contaminations from soils (land decontamination) and reducing
soil salinity while improving soil properties- THE VERMI-REMEDIATION
TECHNOLOGY (VRT);
4) Restoring and improving soil fertility and boosting crop productivity by worm
activity and use of vermicompost (miracle growth promoter) while eliminating the
use of destructive agro-chemicals - THE VERMI-AGRO-PRODUCTION
TECHNOLOGY (VAPT);
Vermi-composting, vermi-filtration, vermi-remediation and vermi-agro-production are
self-promoted, self-regulated, self-improved and self-enhanced, low or no-energy requiring
zero-waste technology, easy to construct, operate and maintain. It excels all bio-conversion,
bio-degradation and bio-production technologies by the fact that it can utilize organics that
otherwise cannot be utilized by others. It excels all bio-treatment technologies because it
achieves greater utilization than the rate of destruction achieved by other technologies. It
involves about 100-1000 times higher value addition than other biological technologies.
(Appeholf, 1997).
About 4,400 different species of earthworms have been identified, and quite a few of
them are versatile waste eaters and bio-degraders and several of them are bio-accumulators
and bio-transformers of toxic chemicals from contaminated soils rendering the land fit for
productive uses.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

43

2. EARTHWORMS:
THE GREAT WASTE AND LAND MANAGERS ON EARTH
The earthworms have over 600 million years of experience in waste and land
management. No wonder then, Charles Darwin called them as the unheralded soldiers of
mankind and friends of farmers; and the Greek philosopher Aristotle called them as the
intestine of earth, meaning digesting a wide variety of organic materials including the waste
organics, from earth. (Darwin and Seward, 1903).

Versatile Waste Eaters and Decomposers


Earthworms are versatile waste eaters and decomposers. They feed lavishly on the
organic waste, and also on the microorganisms (bacteria, fungi and the actinomycetes) that
invade and colonize the waste biomass. Most earthworms consume, at the best, half their
body weight of organics in the waste in a day. Eisenia fetida is reported to consume organic
matter at the rate equal to their body weight every day.(ARRPET, 2005).
Earthworm participation enhances natural biodegradation and decomposition of organic
waste from 60 to 80 %. Study indicates that given the optimum conditions of temperature
(20-30 C) and moisture (60-70 %), about 5 kg of worms (numbering approx.10,000) can
vermiprocess 1 ton of waste into vermi-compost in just 30 days (ARRPET, 2005). Upon
vermi-composting the volume of solid waste is significantly reduced from approximately 1
cum to 0.5 cum of vermi-compost.
Earthworms can also treat and purify municipal wastewater (sewage) and also some
industrial wastewater from the food processing industries significantly reducing the BOD and
COD loads, the total dissolved and suspended solids (TDSS). It does this by the general
mechanism of biodegradation of organics in the wastewater, ingestion of heavy metals and
solids from wastewater and also by their absorption through body walls. What is more
significant is that, there is no sludge formation in the process and the resulting vermifiltered water is clean, nutritive and disinfected enough to be reused for irrigation in farms,
parks and gardens.

Bio-Accumulators of Toxic Soil Chemicals and Contaminants


Earthworms have been found to bioaccumulate heavy metals, pesticides and lipophilic
organic micropollutants like the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from the soil
(Contreras-Ramos et. al, 2006). After the Seveso chemical plant explosion in 1976 in Italy,
when vast inhabited area was contaminated with certain chemicals including the extremely
toxic TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) several fauna perished but for the
earthworms that were alone able to survive. Earthworms which ingested TCDD contaminated
soils were shown to bio-accumulate dioxin in their tissues and concentrate it on average 14.5
fold. (Satchell, 1983). E. fetida was used as the test organisms for different soil contaminants
and several reports indicated that E. fetida tolerated 1.5 % crude oil (containing several toxic
organic pollutants) and survived in this environment. (OECD, 2000; Safwat et al., 2002).

44

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

Earthworms also tolerate high concentrations of heavy metals in the environment. The species
Lumbricus terrestris was found to bio-accumulate in their tissues 90-180 mg lead (Pb) / gm of
dry weight, while L. rubellus and D. rubida it was 2600 mg /gm and 7600 mg /gm of dry
weight respectively.(Ireland, 1983).

Earthworm Species Suitable for Waste Management (Waste Biodegradation)


Long-term researches into vermiculture have indicated that the Tiger Worm (Eisenia
fetida), Red Tiger Worm (E. andrei), the Indian Blue Worm (Perionyx excavatus),the African
Night Crawler (Eudrilus euginae),and the Red Worm (Lumbricus rubellus) are best suited for
vermi-composting of variety of organic wastes and vermifiltration of both municipal and
industrial wastewater under all climatic conditions. (Graff, 1981). E. fetida and E. andrei are
closely related. Our study has indicated that E. fetida is most versatile waste eater and
degrader and an army of the above 5 species combined together works meticulously.

Earthworm Species Suitable for Land Remediation (Soil Decontamination)


Certain species of earthworms such as Eisenia fetida, Aporrectodea tuberculata,
Lumbricus terrestris, L. rubellus, Dendrobaena rubida, D. veneta, Eiseniella tetraedra,
Allobophora chlorotica have been found to tolerate and remove wide range of chemicals from
soil. Our study also indicate that E. fetida is most versatile chemical bio-accumulators.
(Ireland, 1983).
Several of above species are common to India and Australia, both nations being
biogeographically very close. (Sinha et. al,.2002).

3. THE BIOLOGY AND ECOLOGY OF EARTHWORMS


Earthworms are long, narrow, cylindrical, bilaterally symmetrical, segmented animals
without bones. The body is dark brown, glistening and covered with delicate cuticle. They
weigh over 1400-1500 mg after 8-10 weeks. On an average, 2000 adult worms weigh 1 kg
and one million worms weigh approximately 1 ton. Usually the life span of an earthworm is
about 3 to 7 years depending upon the type of species and the ecological situation.
Earthworms harbor millions of nitrogen-fixing and decomposer microbes in their gut.
They have chemoreceptors which aid in search of food. Their body contains 65 % protein
(70-80 % high quality lysine rich protein on a dry weight basis), 14 % fats, 14 %
carbohydrates and 3 % ash. (Gerard, 1960; ARRPET, 2005).

Enormous Power of Reproduction and Rapid Rate of Multiplication


Earthworms multiply very rapidly. They are bisexual animals and cross-fertilization
occurs as a rule. After copulation the clitellum (a prominent band) of each worm eject lemon-

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

45

shaped cocoon where sperms enter to fertilize the eggs. Up to 3 cocoons per worm per week
are produced. From each cocoon about 10-12 tiny worms emerge. Studies indicate that they
double their number at least every 60 days. Given the optimal conditions of moisture,
temperature and feeding materials earthworms can multiply by 28 i.e. 256 worms every 6
months from a single individual. Each of the 256 worms multiplies in the same proportion to
produce a huge biomass of worms in a short time. The total life-cycle of the worms is about
220 days. They produce 300-400 young ones within this life period. (Hand, 1988). A mature
adult can attain reproductive capability within 8 12 weeks of hatching from the cocoon. Red
worms takes only 4-6 weeks to become sexually mature. (ARREPT, 2005). Earthworms
continue to grow throughout their life and the number of segments continuously proliferates
from a growing zone just in front of the anus.
Table 1. Reproductive Capacity of Some Environmentally Supportive Worms
Species

E. fetida
E. eugeniae
P. excavatus
D. veneta

Sexual
maturity
time (days)
53-76
32-95
28-56
57-86

No. of
cocoon.
3.8
3.6
19.5
1.6

Cocoons
hatching
time (days)
32-73
13-27
16-21
40-126

Egg
maturity
days
85-149
43-122
44-71
97-214

%
hatching
83.2
81.
90.7
81.2

No. of
hatchlings
3.3
2.3
1.1
1.1

Net
reproduction
rate/week
10.4
6.7
19.4
1.4

Source : Edwards (1988).

Sensitive to Light, Touch and Dryness


Earthworms are very sensitive to touch, light and dryness. They tend to migrate away
from light. Cold (low temperature) is not a big problem for them as the heat (high
temperature). Their activity is significantly slowed down in winter, but heat can kill them
instantly. They temporarily migrate into deeper layers when subjected to too cold or too hot
situations. It seems worms are not very sensitive to offensive smell as they love to live and
feed on cattle dung and even sewage sludge. However, offensive smell can persist only for a
short while in any environment where worms are active. They arrest all odour problems by
killing anaerobes and pathogens that create foul odour.

4. VERMICULTURE : A GLOBAL MOVEMENT


The movement was started in the middle of 20th century and the first serious experiments
for management of municipal / industrial organic wastes were established in Holland in 1970,
and subsequently in England, and Canada. Later vermiculture were followed in USA, Italy,
Philippines, Thailand, China, Korea, Japan, Brazil, France, Australia and Israel
(Edward,1988). However, the farmers all over the world have been using worms for
composting their farm waste and improving farm soil fertility since long time.
In UK, large 1000 mt vermi-composting plants have been erected in Wales
(Frederickson, 2000). The American Earthworm Technology Company started a 'vermi-

46

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

composting farm' in 1978-79 with 500 t /month of vermicompost production (Edward, 2000).
Collier (1978) and Hartenstein and Bisesi (1989) reported on the management of sewage
sludge and effluents from intensively housed livestock by vermiculture in USA. Japan
imported 3000 mt of earthworms from the USA during the period 1985-87 for cellulose waste
degradation (Kale,1998). The Aoka Sangyo Co. Ltd., has three 1000 t /month plants
processing waste from paper pulp and the food industry (Kale,1998). This produces 400 ton
of vermicompost and 10 ton of live earthworms per month. The Toyhira Seiden Kogyo Co. of
Japan is using rice straw, municipal sludge, sawdust and paper waste for vermicomposting
involving 20 plants which in total produces 2-3 thousands tons of vermicompost per month
(Edward, 2000). In Italy, vermiculture is used to biodegrade municipal and paper mill sludge.
Aerobic and anaerobic sludge are mixed and aerated for more than 15 days and in 5000 cum
of sludge 5 kg of earthworms are added. In about 8 months the hazardous sludge is converted
into nutritive vermicompost (Ceccanti and Masciandaro, 1999). In France, 20 tons of mixed
household wastes are being vermi-composted everyday using 1000 to 2000 million red tiger
worms (Elsenia andrei) in earthworm tanks. (ARRPET, 2005). Rideau Regional Hospital in
Ontario, Canada, vermi-compost 375 - 400 kg of wet organics mainly food waste everyday.
The worm feed is prepared by mixing shredded newspaper with the food waste. (ARRPET,
2005). In Wilson, North Carolina, U.S., more than 5 tons of pig manure (excreta) is being
vermi-composted every week. (NCSU, 1997). In New Zealand, Envirofert is a large
vermicomposting company operating in over 70 acre site in Auckland converting thousands
of tons of green organic waste every year into high quality compost. (www.envirofert.co.nz).
Almost all agricultural universities in India are now involved in vermiculture and a
movement is going across the sub-continent especially involving the poor rural women with
dual objectives of making wealth (food and fertilizer) from waste and combating poverty
while cleaning the environment and combating pollution of land and soil. Earthworms have
enhanced the lives of poor in India. It has become good source of livelihood for many.
(White, 1994; Hati, 2001).
Vermiculture is being practiced and propagated on large scale in Australia too as a part of
the 'Urban Agriculture Development Program' (to convert all the municipal urban wastes into
compost for local food production) and Diverting Waste from Landfills Program (for
reducing landfills in Australia).

5. THE VERMICOMPOSTING TECHNOLOGY (VCT)


Vermicomposting is a rapid biological degradation process (aided by earthworms and soil
microbes) in which several kinds of organic materials are converted from unstable product
(which is likely to decompose further, creating objectionable odors, generating greenhouse
gas methane and producing environmental insanitation) to an increasingly more stable
product whose value is upgraded as nutritive materials for the soil and that can remain in the
environment without creating any environmental problem. All organic wastes by its very
nature (chemical composition) is bound to disintegrate anaerobically in environment and
generate greenhouse gas methane (CH4). Only if they are allowed to degrade under aerobic
conditions (which is readily facilitated by earthworms) that this can be prevented.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

47

5.1. Wastes Suitable for Vermicomposting


Earthworms can physically handle a wide variety of organic wastes from both municipal
(domestic and commercial) and industrial (livestock, food processing and paper industries)
streams. Earthworms are highly adaptable to different types of organic wastes (even of
industrial origin), provided, the physical structure, pH and the salt concentrations are not
above the tolerance level. Another matter of considerable significance is that the earthworms
also partially detoxify (by bio-accumulating any heavy metals and toxic chemicals) and
disinfect (by devouring on pathogens and killing them by anti-bacterial coelomic fluid) the
waste biomass while degrading them into vermi-compost which is nearly sterile and odorless.
(Pierre et al., 1982).

Some Industrial Wastes Suitable for Vermi-Composting


Solid waste including the wastewater sludge from paper pulp and cardboard industry,
brewery and distillery, sericulture industry, vegetable oil factory, potato and corn chips
manufacturing industry, sugarcane industry, aromatic oil extraction industry, logging and
carpentry industry offers excellent feed material for vermi-composting by earthworms. (Kale,
et al., 1993; Kale and Sunitha, 1995; Seenappa et al.,1995; Gunathilagraj and Ravignanam,
1996; Lakshmi and Vijayalakshmi, 2000; ARRPET, 2005.)
Worms Can Even Vermicompost Human Excreta (Feces)
Bajsa et al. (unpublished data) studied vermicomposting of human excreta (feces). It was
completed in six months, with good physical texture meeting ARMANZ (1995) requirements,
odourless and safe pathogen quality. Sawdust appeared to be the best covering material that
can be used in vermicomposting toilets to produce compost with a good earthy smell, a
crumbly texture and dark brown colour. There was no re-growth of pathogens on storing the
compost for longer period of time and the initial pathogen load did not interfere in the die off
process as the composting process itself seemed to stabilize the pathogen level in the system.
Waste Materials Preferably to be Avoided for Vermi-composting
1) Heavily salted products unless soaked in water for 24 hours;
2) Excess citrus (orange and lemon peels and crushes) and onions wastes (might reduce
pH and impair worm activity);
3) Feces of pets (may carry viral or bacterial toxins);
4) Fresh green grasses and foliages (green waste) creates high temperature and can
harm worms;
5) All non-biodegradable wastes;
6) Meat and dairy products and slaughterhouse waste are to be avoided in the initial
stage till the number of earthworms become high enough in the composting bed (it
may invite maggots and also create bad odor for sometimes).
However, Nair et al (2006) studied that thermophilic aerobic composting of food waste
for 7 days followed by vermicomposting can eliminate the need for screening off of citrus
and other acidic wastes like onion peels from vermicomposting. It comprises a short period

48

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

of high temperature (around 55 C) followed by a period of lower temperature. This also


leads to reduction of pathogens in much shorter time. (See table 9 below).
The Envirofert, New Zealand, which is vermicomposting thousands of tons of green
waste every year, also practice putting the green waste first to a lengthy thermophilic cooking,
and then to vermicomposting by worms after cooling. Cooking of green waste also help
destroy the weeds and pathogens which may come from the feces of pets in grasses. They
claim that each worm eat the cooked green waste at least 8 times leaving an end product
which is rich in key minerals, plant growth hormones, enzymes, and beneficial soil microbes.
(www.envirofert.co.nz).

5.2. Vermicomposting of Municipal Solid Waste


Millions of tons of municipal solid wastes (MSW) from homes and commercial
institutions, cattle and farm wastes are generated in the human society and are mostly ending
up in the landfills everyday, creating extraordinary economic and environmental problems for
the local government to manage and monitor them (may be up to 30 years) for environmental
safety (emission of greenhouse and toxic gases). Construction of engineered landfills incurs
20-25 million US dollars before the first load of waste is dumped.

5.3. Mechanism of Worm Action in Vermicomposting


Worms Reinforce Microbial Population and Act Synergistically Promoting Rapid
Waste Degradation
Earthworms promotes the growth of beneficial decomposer aerobic bacteria in waste
biomass and this they do by improving aeration by burrowing actions. They also act as an
aerator, grinder, crusher, chemical degrader and a biological stimulator. (Dash, 1978; Binet et
al., 1998 and Sinha et al., 2002). Earthworms hosts millions of decomposer (biodegrader)
microbes in their gut (as they devour on them) and excrete them in soil along with nutrients
nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in their excreta (Singleton et al., 2003). The nutrients N and
P are further used by the microbes for multiplication and vigorous action. Edward and
Fletcher (1988) showed that the number of bacteria and actinomycetes contained in the
ingested material increased up to 1000 fold while passing through the gut. A population of
worms numbering about 15,000 will in turn foster a microbial population of billions of
millions. (Morgan and Burrows, 1982). Singleton et al. (2003) studied the bacterial flora
associated with the intestine and vermicasts of the earthworms and found species like
Pseudomonas, Mucor, Paenibacillus, Azoarcus, Burkholderia, Spiroplasm, Acaligenes, and
Acidobacterium which has potential to degrade several categories of organics. Acaligenes can
even degrade PCBs and Mucor can degrade dieldrin.
Under favorable conditions, earthworms and microorganisms act symbiotically and
synergistically to accelerate and enhance the decomposition of the organic matter in the
waste. It is the microorganisms which breaks down the cellulose in the food waste, grass
clippings and the leaves from garden wastes. (Morgan and Burrows, 1982; Xing et al. 2005)
Vermicomposting of organic waste involves following actions of worms

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

49

1) The waste feed materials ingested is finely ground (with the aid of stones in their
muscular gizzard) into small particles to a size of 2-4 microns and passed on to the
intestine for enzymatic actions. The gizzard and the intestine work as a bioreactor;
2) The worms secrete enzymes proteases, lipases, amylases, cellulases and chitinases in
their gizzard and intestine which bring about rapid biochemical conversion of the
cellulosic and the proteinaceous materials in the waste organics. Earthworms convert
cellulose into its food value faster than proteins and other carbohydrates. They ingest
the cellulose, pass it through its intestine, adjust the pH of the digested (degraded)
materials, cull the unwanted microorganisms, and then deposit the processed
cellulosic materials mixed with minerals and microbes as aggregates called
vermicasts in the soil. (Dash, 1978).
3) Only 5-10 percent of the chemically digested and ingested material is absorbed into
the body and the rest is excreted out in the form of fine mucus coated granular
aggregates - the vermicasts rich in nitrates, phosphates and potash.
4) The final process in vermi-processing and degradation of organic matter is the
humification in which the large organic particles are converted into a complex
amorphous colloid containing phenolic materials. Only about one-fourth of the
organic matter is converted into humus. The colloidal humus acts as slow release
fertilizer. (ARRPET, 2005).

5.4. Experimental Studies on Vermicomposting


a). Study of Biodegradation Abilities of Individual Worm Species
This study was underataken by Sinha et al. (2002) at University of Rajasthan, Jaipur,
India. About 150 mixed species of composting worms Eisinia fetida, Eudrilus euginae, and
Perionyx excavatus were added to 1 kg each of buffalo dung, garden and kitchen wastes in
different containers. In another three containers, each of these wastes and the three individual
species of worms were used separately to assess their individual feeding and biodegradation
abilities. (See table 2).
Table 2. Vermicomposting of Cattle Dung, Kitchen Wastes and Garden Wastes by
Individual Composting Worms
Waste Materials
1 kg of each
Cattle dung
(Week old &
semi-dry)
Raw food wastes
(Spinach stems,
cauliflower &
eggplant rejects)
Garden wastes
(Grasses &
dry leaves)

Time Taken in Vermicomposting & Complete Degradation (in days)


E. fetida
E. euginee
P. excavatus
Mixed Species
59
44
62
45

78

61

83

70

89

69

91

80

Source: Sinha et al., (2002): The Environmentalist, UK.

50

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

Findings and Results


Results clearly showed that cattle dung is accepted quickly and composted rapidly by
earthworms. Dung is partially degraded materials and the worms love to feed on them as they
are rich in microbes. Raw food waste and garden wastes which contain cellulosic materials
are accepted slowly as they are hard to degrade. Performance of Eudrilus euginae was best
among the three species followed by Eisinia fetida.
b). Study of Composting with Worms (Vermicomposting) and without Worms
(Conventional Aerobic Composting) to Assess the Efficiency of Two Processes
This study was made by Sinha et al. at University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India on different
cooked and raw kitchen wastes. In each container, 100 mixed species of composting worms
(Eisinia fetida, Eudrilus euginiae and Perionyx excavatus) were added. A control pot was
also organized for conventional aerobic composting without worms. Experiments were
continued throughout the year in both summer, rainy and winter seasons to assess the effect of
temperature variation, humidity and climate change on worm activity. (See table 3).
Table 3. Biodegradation of Raw and Cooked Kitchen Wastes With and Without Worms

Source: Sinha et al., (2002) : The Environmentalist, UK. (Data is for warmer climate in India - MayJuly 1998: Temperature Min. 20C ; Max. 42C; Values in brackets are for cold periods Dec.1998 Feb. 1999 : Temperature Min. 8 C; Max. 18C) Key: EP = Earthworms Present
(Vermicomposting); EA = Earthworms Absent (Aerobic Composting) ; NA= Never Achieved
Within the Period of Study.

Findings and Results


Study confirmed beyond doubt that vermicomposting by worms is most efficient process
(nearly 4-6 times faster) over aerobic composting which involves only microbial
decomposition. Worms act both ways carry out enzymatic degradation and also enhance
microbial decomposition. Worm activity is at still greater threshold during warmer periods
than in cold.
c). Study of Vermicomposting of Raw and Cooked Food Wastes to Assess the Food
Preferences of Earthworms and the Time Taken in Degradation of Each Food
Component
The study was made by Sinha et al. (2005) and Patil (2005) at Griffith University,
Brisbane, Australia. Vermi-composting was carried out in a specially fabricated plastic
vermiculture bin (Figure 1) sold in major hardware stores all over Australia. There is
adequate provisions for aeration from side walls and top is open with cover lid on it. The

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

51

vermicomposting bed was prepared with a thick layer of wet newspaper and about 4 inches of
garden soil spread over it. About 250 numbers of earthworms were released in this soil bed.
Food wastes were collected from homes and restaurants. About 100 gm of each of the food
waste components were used. Mixed species of Elsenia fetida, Eudrilus eugeniae and
Perionyx excavatus were used. Worms ranged between 3-6 cm in length and 0.1-0.2 cm in
thickness. Moisture content was maintained at around 60 % by regular spray of water.
Temperature within the bin was maintained at around 22-24 C as in the glass-house.

No of Days taken for complete


Biodegradation

100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
E. fetida,

E. euginae,

P. excavatus

Mixed Species

Earthworm Species Used


Cattle dung

Kitchen w astes

Garden w astes

Figure 1. Time Taken To Complete Biodegradation of Different Food Waste by Various Earthworm
Species.

A control VC bin was organized with all above features except for the earthworms to
compare the rate of waste biodegradation without worms (but by aerobic process), odor
problems etc., and to exactly determine the role and efficiency of earthworms in waste
biodegradation. Results of vermicomposting have been given in tables 4 and 5.
120

16

% Reduction

12
80

10

60

8
6

40

4
20

Raw potato
cuts &
peels

Crushed
egg shells

Cooked
chicken,
lamb & beef
(curry)

Indian
chapatti

Cooked
potato,
cauliflower
etc.
Raw
rejects of
cauliflower
etc.

Baked
potato,
tomato etc.

Apple,
pear, kiwi
fruit etc.

Raw
cabbage,
lettuce etc.

Rice,
noodles &
pasta

Bread,
buns &
naans

Food Waste components


% Biodegradation With Worms

% Biodegradation WithoutWorms

Figure 2. Rate of Biodegradation of Food Waste Components.

Weeks

Duration (Weeks)

14

100

52

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

Findings and Results


Worms can eat and degrade all food components including the cooked meat wastes
(except the bones) conveniently according to their food preferences. They prefer softer ones
first. But they are not comfortable with egg-shells, raw onions and raw potato rejects.
Table 4. Rate of Biodegradation of Raw and Cooked Food Wastes With and Without
Earthworms Under Identical Climatic Conditions (Food waste components about 100
gm each with 250 worms)

Source: Sinha et al. (2005)


Keys: * 100 % degradation was achieved within the study period (Week 14) though with foul odor
and heavy invasion of fungus;
** 100 % degradation could never be achieved, had odor problem and badly invaded by fungus
(blue, black and green moulds) and had to be terminated;
*** Terminated in week 4 because of maggots, heavy fungus and offensive smell;

Table 5. Rate of Biodegradation of Fried and Oily Food Wastes With and Without
Earthworms Under Identical Climatic Conditions (Food waste used was about 9.5 kg
with 500 worms)

Source: Patil (2005)


Key: ND = Not detectable
* Mild foul odor
** Highly offensive foul odor T= Terminated.

% Biodegradation

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

53

100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
2

10

12

14

Time (Weeks)
% Biodegradation With Worms of Crushed Food

% Biodegradation With Worms of Intact Food

% Biodegradation Without Worms of Crushed Food

% Biodegradation Without Worms of Intact Food

Figure 3. Rate of Biodegradation of Fried and Oily Food Wastes With and Without Earthworms Under
Identical Climatic Conditions

Figure 4. The Vermiculture Bin

Figure 5. Fried chicken nuggets and fish, calamari


rings, potato fries.

Figure 6. Worm size before vermicomposting.

Figure 7. Worm size and health after


vermicomposting.

54

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

Figure 8. Food Waste in VC Bin (Half Crushed


and Half Intact) on Day 1 (30.8.05).

Figure 9. Biodegraded (Vermicomposted) food


waste on Day 29 after week 8 (26.10.05).

Findings and Results


Worms slowly accept the fried greasy and oily foods although reluctantly in the
beginning, and then more faster, after adapting with new food products. They prefer crushed
food materials.

5.4. Vermicomposting of Sewage Sludge : Some Preliminary Studies


Sludge is an inevitable hazardous and odorous byproduct from the conventional water
and wastewater treatment plants which eventually require safe disposal either in landfills or
by incineration incurring heavy cost. When the sludge is dewatered and dried they are termed
as biosolids. Management of the biosolids remains problematic due to the high cost of
installing sewage sludge stabilization reactors and dehydration systems. Vermicomposting
has been successfully used for treating and stabilizing municipal (water and wastewater
treatment plants) as well as industrial (paper mill, dairy and textile industry) sludge, diverting
them from ending up in the landfills. (Elvira et al. 1998; Lotzof, 1999; Ndegwa and
Thompson 2001; Fraser-Quick, 2002; Contreras-Ramos et al., 2005). The quality of compost
is significantly improved in terms of nutritional and storage value by worms. (Klein et al.,
2005).
The chemical and biological composition of sewage sludge is unpredictable as they may
contain chemicals and pathogens from industry and agriculture. They are potential health
hazard as they have been found to contain high numbers of cysts of protozoa, parasitic ova,
fecal pathogens like Salmonella, Shigella and E. coli and also heavy metals such as zinc (Zn),
cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg) and copper (Cu). However, they also contains organics and
essential plant nutrients like nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and various trace
elements. Sludge is stabilized to reduce or eliminate pathogens and heavy metals, eliminate
offensive odor, and reduce or eliminate the potential for putrefaction. Stabilized sewage
sludge can become good source of organic fertilizer and soil additive for beneficial reuse in
farms. (McCarthy, 2002). Earthworms feed readily upon the sludge components, rapidly
convert them into vermicompost, reduce the pathogens to safe levels and ingest the heavy

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

55

metals. Volume is significantly reduced from 1 cum of wet sludge (80 % moisture) to 0.5 cum
of vermicompost (30 % moisture). (Eastman, 1999).
Contreras-Ramos et al. (2005) studied the vermicomposting of biosolids (dried sewage
sludge) from various industries but mainly from textile industries and some households
(municipal) mixed with cow manure and oat straw. 1,800, 1,400 and 1000 gms of aerobically
digested biosolids were mixed with 800, 500 and 200 gms of cow manure and 200, 100 and 0
(zero) gms of oat straw in triplicate set up. A control was also kept with only biosolids. Cow
manure was added to provide additional nutrients and the oat straw to provide bulk. 50
earthworms (weighing 40 gm live weight) were added in each sample and the species used
was Eisenia fetida. They were vermicomposted at three different moisture contents 60 %,
70 % and 80 % for two months (60 days). The best results were obtained with 1,800 g
biosolids mixed with 800 g of cow manure and no (0) straw at 70 % moisture content.
Volatile solids of the vermicompost decreased by 5 times, heavy metals concentrations and
pathogens (with no coliforms) were below the limits set by USEPA (1995) for an excellently
stabilized biosolid. Carbon content decreased significantly due to mineralization of organic
matter, and the number of earthworms increased by 1.2 fold.
Vermiprocessing of sludge (biosolids) from the sewage and water treatment plants is
being increasingly practiced in Australia and as a result it is saving large landfill spaces every
year in Australia. The Redland Shire in Queensland started vermi-composting of sludge
(biosolids) from sewage and water treatment plants with the aid of Vermitech Pty. Ltd. in
1997. The facility receives 400-500 tons of sludge every week with 17 % average solid
contents and over 200 tons of vermicast is produced every week by vermicomposting.
(Vermitech, 1998).
The Hobart City Council in Tasmania, Australia, vermicompost and stabilize about 66
cum of municipal biosolids (from sewage sludge) every week, along with green mulch
diverting them from landfills. Zeolite mixed with the biosolids helps balance the pH and also
in absorbing ammonia and odor. About two-third of this volume (44 cum) becomes vermicompost which is sold to public. The City Council is saving AU $ 56,000 per year just from
avoiding landfill disposal (transport and tipping fees etc.). They are earning an equal amount
as revenue from the sale of vermi-compost. (Datar et al., 1997).

5.4.1. Mechanism of Worm Action in Vermicomposting of Sludge : Worms Act as


Sludge Digester
The basic mechanism of worm action is same as it is in the degradation and composting
of general organic waste components of MSW. However, vermistabilization of sludge
involves very complex mechanical, chemical and biological transformation processes and the
resultant product has higher stabilization and soil supplement value than traditional
composting that relies on mechanical incorporation of sludge with green waste in large
compost heaps. It decompose the organics in the sludge, mineralise the nutrients, ingest the
heavy metals and devour the pathogens (bacteria, fungus, nematodes and protozoa) found in
sludge making them chemicals and pathogen free ready to be reused as soil additive and
organic fertilizer. Essentially, it works as a sludge digester which is accomplished in the
following steps1) The sludge is softened by the grume excreted in the mouth of the earthworms and
from there it goes to the esophagus;

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

56

2) In the esophagus the softened sludge components is neutralized by calcium (Ca)


(excreted by the inner walls of esophagus) and passed on to the gizzard and the
intestine for further enzymatic action.

5.4.2. Experimental Study of Vermicomposting of Sewage Sludge


Brahambhatt (2006) studied the vermicomposting of sewage sludge. The sludge was
obtained from the Oxley Wastewater Treatment Plant in South Brisbane and earthworms were
obtained from Bunnings hardware. It contained mixed species of Eisenia fetida, Perionyx
excavatus and Eudrillus eugeniae. Cow dung was obtained from cattle farm in Ipswich. Both
sewage sludge and the cow manure was partially air dried for 5 days to prevent any methane
and hydrogen sulfide generation that might harm the worms. Vermicompost was obtained
from our vermiculture lab in the School of Environmental Engineering. Five sets of
experimental bins (40 litre HDPE containers) with biosolids were prepared with one as
CONTROL and were studied for morphological (color and texture), biological (pathogens)
and chemical (heavy metals) changes over the 12 weeks period.
Table 6. Status of Coliforms in the Untreated (Control), Vermicomposted and
Microbiologically Composted Biosolids After 12 Weeks

Source: Brahambhatt (2006).


Key: VC = Vermicomposting; * Microbial Composting.
% of stabilisation

% of stabilisation

100.00%
80.00%
60.00%
40.00%
20.00%
0.00%
Biosolids
(CONTROL)

VC Biosolids
by
Earthw orms

VC Biosolids
*Composted
by
Biosolids by
Earthw orms + Cow Dung
Cow Dung

*Composted
Biosolids by
Organic Soil

Nature of samples tested

Figure 10. Status of Coliforms in the Untreated (Control), Vermicomposted and Conventionally
Composted (By Microbial Degradation) Biosolids after 12 Weeks.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

57

Findings and Results


Results clearly shows that the earthworms significantly reduce or almost eliminates the
pathogens from the digested (composted) sludge. Sludge treated with earthworms (with or
without feed materials) only showed negative results by the Colilert test under the UV lamp.
And this was achieved in just 12 weeks.
It also infers that under the microbial composting systems the pathogens remains in the
sludge for longer time even after treatment until it is completely dry with all food and
moisture exhausted making them difficult to survive.
Table 7. Status of Heavy Metals Cadmium (Cd) and Lead (Pb) in the Untreated
(Control), Vermicomposted and Microbiologically Composted Biosolids (mg/kg of soil)
in 12 Weeks

Source: Brahambhatt (2006).


Key: * Conventional Composting by Microbial Degradation; NC = No Change in Value.

90
80

2.5

70

60
50

1.5

40

30
20

0.5

Lead (mg/kg of soil)

Cadmium (mg/kg of soil)

10

0
Biosolids
(CONTROL)

VC Biosolids VC Biosolids
*Composted
*Composted
by
by
Biosolids by
Biosolids by
Earthw orms
Earthw orms + Cow Dung
Organic Soil
Cow Dung

Nature of sample tested

Cadmium
Lead

Figure 11. Status of Heavy Metals Cadmium (Cd) and Lead (Pb) in the Untreated (Control),
Vermicomposted and Conventionally Composted Biosolids after 12 Weeks.

Findings and Results


Results clearly show that the earthworms reduce the heavy metals cadmium (Cd) and
lead (Pb) from the digested sludge. There was no change in the values of heavy metals
between the untreated sludge (Bin 1) and those treated by adding cow dung and by organic
soil (Bins 4 and 5) to enhance microbial composting. Although biosolids can be slowly

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

58

stabilized by microbial degradation over a period of time, the heavy metals will remain in the
system for quite sometimes after which it may leach into soil or get bound with soil organics
by chemical reactions occurring in the soil.
% Reduction in Cadmium

% Reduction in lead

70%

% Reduction

60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
Biosolids
(CONTROL)

VC Biosolids
VC Biosolids
*Composted
by Earthw orms by Earthw orms
Biosolids by
+ Cow Dung
Cow Dung

*Composted
Biosolids by
Organic Soil

Nature of sample te ste d

Figure 12. Percentage Reduction in Cadmium and Lead in the Untreated (Control), Vermicomposted
and Conventionally Composted Biosolids after 12 Weeks.

Though there was not very significant removal of heavy metals by earthworms in the 12
weeks of experiment yet their role in heavy metal removal cannot be undermined. Providing
additional feed materials (Bin 3) enhanced worm activity and also their number (stimulating
reproduction) and led to greater removal of heavy metals. It infers that over a period of time
and with enhanced worm activity the heavy metals can be completely removed from the
biosolids.

5.5. Critical Factors Affecting Optimal Worm Activity and VermiComposting


1. Moderate Temperature: In general earthworms prefers and tolerates cold and moist
conditions far better than the hot and dry ones. Most worms involved in vermicomposting require moderate temperature between 20 30 C. Heat causes more
problems in vermi-composting than the cold. Red worms are reported to become
inactive above 29 C. They are at the highest levels of both waste degradation and
reproduction activity as the weather cools in the fall and warms in the spring.
2. Adequate Moisture: Earthworms requires plenty of moisture for growth and survival
ranging from 60 to 70 %. The bed should not be too wet as it may create anaerobic
condition adversely affecting worm activity.
3. Adequate Aeration: Vermi-composting is an aerobic process and adequate flow of air
in the waste biomass is essential for worm function. Worms breath through their skin
and need plenty of oxygen in the surrounding areas. Although worms constantly
aerate their habitat by burrowing actions, periodical turning of waste biomass can
improve aeration and biodegradation.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

59

4. Neutral pH (7.0): Earthworms are sensitive to pH. The decomposition of organic


matter produces organic acids that lower the pH of the bedding soil and impair
worm activity. Although the worms can survive in a pH range of 4.5 to 9 but
functions best at neutral pH of 7.0. Although worms can lower pH of its medium by
secreting calcium (Ca), it is suggestive to add ground limestone (calcium carbonate)
powder to the bedding periodically. This would serve two purposes- maintain neutral
pH and also supply the much needed calcium (Ca) to the worms for its metabolism.
5. Carbon / Nitrogen (C/N) Ratio of the Feed Material: High C/N ratio above 30:1 in
waste biomass can impair worm activity and vermi-composting. Although
earthworms help to lower the C/N ratio of fresh organic waste, it is advisable to add
nitrogen supplements such as cattle dung or pig and goat manure or even kitchen
waste (which are rich in nitrogen contents) when waste materials of higher C/N ratio
exceeding 40:1 such as the green cellulosic wastes (grass clippings) are used for
vermi-composting.
6. Adequate Supply of Calcium (Ca): Calcium appears to be important mineral in worm
biology (as calcarious tissues) and biodegradation activity. Although most organic
waste contains calcium, it is important to add some additional sources of calcium for
good vermi-composting. Egg shells are good source of natural calcium. Occasionally
limestone powder should be added.

5.6. Advantages of Vermi-Composting


Earthworms have real potential to both increase the rate of aerobic decomposition and
composting of organic matter and also to stabilize the organic residues in the MSW and
sludge removing the harmful pathogens and heavy metals from the compost. The quality of
compost is significantly better, rich in key minerals and beneficial soil microbes. In fact in the
conventional aerobic composting process which is thermophilic (temperature rising up to 55
C) many beneficial microbes are killed and nutrient especially nitrogen is lost (due to
gassing off of nitrogen).
Vermicomposting by earthworms excels all other bio-degradation and bio-conversion
technologies by the fact that - it can utilize waste organics that otherwise cannot be utilized by
others; achieve greater utilization (rather than the destruction) of materials that cannot be
achieved by others; and by the fact that it does all with enzymatic actions and enzymes are
biological catalysts giving pace and rapidity to all biochemical reactions even in minute
amounts. It also keeps the system fully aerated with plenty of oxygen available to aerobic
decomposer microbes. Aerobic processes are about 10 times faster than the anaerobic.

1. Nearly Odor-free Process


Earthworms create aerobic conditions in the waste materials by their burrowing actions,
inhibiting the action of anaerobic micro-organisms which release foul-smelling hydrogen
sulfide and mercaptans.

60

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

2. Destroy Pathogens in the End Product (Compost) Making Them Pathogen Free
The earthworms release coelomic fluids that have anti-bacterial properties and destroy all
pathogens in the waste biomass. (Pierre et al.,1982). They also devour the protozoa, bacteria
and fungus as food. They seems to realize instinctively that anaerobic bacteria and fungi are
undesirable and so feed upon them preferentially, thus arresting their proliferation. More
recently, Dr. Elaine Ingham has found in her research that worms living in pathogen-rich
materials (e.g. sewage and sludge), when dissected, show no evidence of pathogens beyond 5
mm of their gut. This confirms that something inside the worms destroys the pathogens, and
excreta (vermicast) becomes pathogen-free (Appelhof, 2003).
In the intestine of earthworms some bacteria and fungus (Pencillium and Aspergillus)
have also been found (Singelton et. al, 2003). They produce antibiotics and kills the
pathogenic organisms in the sewage sludge making it virtually sterile. The removal of
pathogens, faecal coliforms (E.coli), Salmonella spp., enteric viruses and helminth ova from
sewage and sludge appear to be much more rapid when they are processed by E. fetida. Of all
E.coli and Salmonella are greatly reduced. (Bajsa et al., 2003).
Bajsa et al. (2004 and 2005) studied the pathogen die-off in vermicomposting of sewage
sludge spiked with E.coli, S.typhimurium and E.faecalis at the 1.6-5.4 x 106 CFU/g , 7.25 x
105 CFU/g and3-4 x 10 4 CFU/g respectively. The composting was done with different
bulking materials such as lawn clippings, sawdust, sand and sludge alone for a total period of
9 months to test the pathogen safety of the product for handling. It was observed that a safe
product was achieved in 4-5 months of vermicomposting and the product remained the same
quality without much reappearance of pathogens after in the remaining months of the test.
Eastman (1999) and Eastman et. al., (2001) also studied significant human pathogen
reduction in biosolids vermicomposted by earthworms.
Lotzof (2000) also revealed that the pathogens like enteric viruses, parasitic eggs and
E.coli were reduced to safe levels in sludge vermicast. Cardoso and Remirez (2002) reported
a 90 % removal of fecal coliforms and 100 % removal of heliminths from sewage sludge and
water hyacinth after vermicomposting.
Contreras-Ramos et, al., (2005) also confirmed that the earthworms reduced the
population of Salmonella spp. to less than 3 CFU/gm of vermicomposted sludge. There were
no fecal coliforms and Shigella spp. and no eggs of helminths in the treated sludge. (Eastman
et al.,2001; Kumar and Sekaran, 2004). Our studies, Brahmbhatt (2006) has also confirmed
complete removal of coliforms by earthworms.
In conventional aerobic composting system, which is thermophilic process, pathogens
are killed due to high temperature (beyond 55 C). Wu and Smith (1999) studied that for
efficient composting and pathogen reduction a temperature of 55 C must be maintained for
15 consecutive days. But this also kills several beneficial microbes. If this high temperature is
not achieved which could be the case in small scale composting pathogen die off will not be
effective. Vermicomposting is a mesophilic composting system where temperature does not
increase beyond 30 C and the harmful microbes (pathogens) are killed selectively by the
worms through biological (physiological), microbial and enzymatic actions. Nair et al. (2006)
studied a combination of thermophilic followed by vermicomposting and observed that the
combination of the process leads to faster reduction of pathogens than the same period of
thermophilic composting (21 days) and after 2 and 3 months (Table 9). It was also noticed
that 21 days of a combination of thermocomposting and vermicomposting produced compost

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

61

with acceptable C:N ratio and good homogenous consistency of a fertilizer. However the E.
coli and E. faecalis was greater than 110 MPN/g) while S. typhimurium was undetectable.
The optimum period to obtain pathogen-free compost was 9 days of thermophilic composting
followed by 2.5 months of vermicomposting (Nair et. al., 2006).
The study also indicated that vermicomposting leads to greater reduction of pathogens
after 3 months upon storage. Whereas, the samples which were subjected to only thermofilic
composting, retained higher levels of pathogens even after 3 months.
Table 8. Removal of Pathogens (E. coli and E. faecalis) in Thermophilic Composting
Vis-a-Vis Vermicomposting Processes

Source: Nair et. al., (2006)


Key: dT = days of Thermophilic composting; dV = days of Vermicomposting
N.B. E.coli and E. faecalis was tested using the Most Probable Number (MPN) per gram of compost
(Standards Australia, 1995 a and b respectively).

3. Vermicompost Is Free of Toxic Chemicals


Several studies have found that earthworms effectively bio-accumulate or biodegrade
several organic and inorganic chemicals including heavy metals, organochlorine pesticide
and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) residues in the medium in which it feeds.
(Nelson et al., 1982; Ireland, 1983).
4. Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Vermi-composting of Waste
Emission of greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide
(N2O) in waste management programs of both garbage and sewage has become a major
global issue today in the wake of increasing visible impacts of global warming.
Biodegradation of organic waste has long been known to generate methane (CH4). Studies
have also indicated high emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) in proportion to the amount of food
waste used, and methane (CH4) is also emitted if the composting piles contain cattle manure.
N2O emission is relatively high at the beginning of the conventional aerobic composting
process, but declines after two days. N2O is mainly formed under moderate oxygen (O2)
concentration. High emission of N2O at the beginning might be due to the metabolism of the
microbial community coming from food waste, as food waste have been found to generate
N2O even stored at 40 C. (Toms et, al. 1995; Wu et, al. 1995; Wang et, al., 1997; and Yaowu
et. al., 2000).
In theory, vermicomposting by worms should provide some potentially significant
advantages over conventional composting with respect to GHG emissions. Worms
significantly increase the proportion of aerobic to anaerobic decomposition in the compost

62

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

pile by burrowing and aerating actions leaving very few anaerobic areas in the pile, and thus
resulting in a significant decrease in methane (CH4) and also volatile sulfur compounds which
are readily emitted from the conventional (microbial) composting process.(Mitchell et al.,
1980). Molecule to molecule, methane is 20-25 times more powerful GHG than the CO2.
Earthworms can play a good part in the strategy of greenhouse gas reduction and mitigation
in the disposal of global organic wastes as landfills also emit methane resulting from the slow
anaerobic decomposition of waste organics over several years.
Recent researches done in Germany has found that earthworms produce a third of nitrous
oxide (N2O) gases when used for vermicomposting (Frederickson, 2007). Molecule to
molecule N2O is 296 to 310 times more powerful GHG than carbon dioxide (CO2). However,
analysis of vermicompost samples has shown generally higher levels of available nitrogen (N)
as compared to the conventional compost samples made from similar feedstock. This implies
that the vermicomposting process by worms is more efficient at retaining nitrogen (N) rather
than releasing it as N2O. This needs further studies and is being done at Griffith University,
Brisbane, Australia (Middleditch, 2008).

5. More Homogenous End Products Rich in Nutrient


The advantages for employing vermi-composting to process and stabilize organic waste
including sewage sludge over conventional composting by microbial action are that the end
product are more homogenous, rich in plant nutrients and the levels of contaminants are
significantly reduced. Lotzof, 1999). McCarthy (2002) asserts that vermicomposting of
sewage sludge has converted them into an end product that is safe for agricultural use.
Vermicompost has very high porosity, aeration, drainage and water holding capacity
and also contains plant-available nutrients. The resulting product appears to retain more
nutrients for longer period of time and also greatly increases the water holding capacity of the
farm soil (Hartenstein and Hartenstein, 1981; Appelhof, 1997).
Table 9. Initial and Final Nutritional Quality of the Vermicomposted Sludge

Source: Bajsa et al., 2005


Key: SL Sludge; LC Lawn clippings; SD Sawdust; S Sand

The chemical analyses of casts showed two times more available magnesium, 15 times
more available nitrogen and seven times more available potassium compared to the
surrounding soil (Kaviraj and Sharma, 2003). This is an excellent biofertilizer and soil
conditioner (Jensen, 1998).

6. No or Low Energy Use in Vermi-composting Process


Conventional microbial composting requires energy for aeration (constant turning of
waste biomass and even for mechanical airflow) and sometimes for mechanical crushing of

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

63

waste to achieve uniform particle size. Vermi-composting do not involve such use of energy.
Occasionally turning may be required for aeration which can be done manually.

7. Production of Earthworm Biomass : A Nutritive Earthworm Meal


Large scale vermi-composting of sludges would result into tons of earthworms biomass
every year as under favorable conditions earthworms can double their number at least every
60 70 days. Potentially large quantities of worm biomass will be available as pro-biotic
food for the cattle and fish farming, after the first year of composting. This can be a good
source of nutritive worm meal rich in essential amino acids lysine and methionine. It is
superior to even fish meal.
8. Mineralization of Nutrients from the Sludge
Earthworms accelerates the decomposition of the sludge and mineralization of the
organic compounds in it. Most important is that earthworms mineralize the nitrogen (N) and
phosphorus (P) in the sludge to make it bio-available to plants as nutrients. They ingest
nitrogen from the sludge and excrete it in the mineral form as ammonium and muco-proteins.
The ammonium in the soil is bio-transformed into nitrates. Phosphorus (P) contents increased
in the vermicomposted sludge treated with earthworms but decreased in the samples without
earthworms, while the nitrogen (N) content did not show much difference (Parvaresh, et. al.,
2004). Elvira et, al,. (1998) reported increase in the potassium (K) content of the sludge
vermicompost.
9. Decrease in Total Organic Carbon (TOC) and Lowering of C/N Ratio of Sludge
This has significance when the composted sludge is added to soil as fertilizer. Plants
cannot absorb and assimilate mineral nitrogen unless the carbon to nitrogen (C/N) ratio is
about 20:1 or lower. Mineralization of organic matter in the sewage sludge by earthworms
lead to significant decrease in total organic carbon (TOC) content thus lowering the C/N ratio.
This they do by consuming and breaking carbon compounds during respiration. Elvira et al.,
(1998) found that vermicomposting of paper-pulp-mill sewage sludge for 40 days decreased
carbon (C) content by 1.7 fold. Contreras-Ramos et al., (2005) found that carbon content
decreased by 1.1 to 1.4 fold in two months. Our work (Brahambhatt, 2006) also indicated that
earthworms reduce TOC from composted sludge.
10. Reduction in Volatile Solids (VS) from Sludge
Maximum reduction of the volatile solids (VS) is the goal of any sludge stabilization
system and reduced VS is an indicator of stabilized sludge. Study found that Elsenia fetida
increases the rate of volatile solid sludge (VSS) destruction when present in aerobic sludge
and this reduces the probability of putrefaction occurring in the sludge due to anaerobic
conditions. (Loehr, et al,1998). Earthworms creates and maintains good aerobic conditions in
the sludge due to its burrowing actions and this enhances the process of VSS destruction.
Hartenstein and Hartenstein (1981) reported a 9 % reduction in volatile solids over 4 weeks of
sludge vermicomposting by earthworms, which was higher than that of control by almost
one-third. Fredrickson et al., (1997) found a VS reduction of 30 % in compost after 4 months
of conventional composting, whereas, the reduction was 37 % after only 2 months of

64

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

vermicomposting. Higher decrease means more stable product and earthworms plays
important role.

6. THE VERMIFILTRATION TECHNOLOGY (VFT)


Vermifiltration of wastewater using waste eater earthworms is a newly conceived novel
technology with several advantages over the conventional systems. Earthworms body work as
a biofilter and they have been found to remove the 5 days BOD (BOD5) by over 90 %, COD
by 80-90 %, total dissolved solids (TDS) by 90-92 % and the total suspended solids (TSS) by
90-95 % from wastewater by the general mechanism of ingestion and biodegradation of
organic wastes, heavy metals and solids from wastewater and also by their absorption
through body walls. Suspended solids are trapped on top of the vermifilter and processed by
earthworms and fed to the soil microbes immobilized in the vermifilter.
The most significant part is that there is no sludge formation in the process as the
worms eat the solids simultaneously and excrete them as vermicast. (Huges et. al., 2005).
This plagues most councils in world as the sludge being a biohazard requires additional
expenditure on safe landfill disposal. This is also an odor-free process and the resulting
vermi-filtered water is clean enough to be reused in industries as cooling water and also
highly nutritive to be reused for farm irrigation.

6.1. Vermifiltration of Municipal Wastewater (Sewage)


Sewage is the cloudy fluid of human fecal matter and urine, rich in minerals and organic
substances. Water is the major component (99 %) and solid suspension amounts to only 1 %.
The biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and oxygen consumption (OC) values are extremely
high demanding more oxygen by aerobic microbes for biodegradation of organic matter.
Dissolved oxygen (DO) is greatly depleted. Low oxygen in water leads to anaerobic
decomposition of organic contents and emission of obnoxious gases like hydrogen sulfide,
methane and carbon monoxide. The nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) contents are very high
and there are heavy metals like cadmium (Cd) and significant amount of coliform bacteria.
The total suspended solids (TSS) is also very high like the BOD and nutrients and this often
leads to a high anaerobic microenvironment in the sediments.

BOD, COD and SS Values of Raw Sewage and the Acceptable Values of Treated
Sewage
The average BOD value of the raw sewage ranged between 200 400 mg/L, COD ranged
between 116 -285 mg/L, the TSS ranged between 300 350 mg/L and the pH ranged between
6.9 7.3. There is great fluctuation in these values depending upon catchment area, flow rate
and season. Sewage from industrial areas can have high COD values, very low or high pH,
due to accidental mixing of industrial wastewater. The normal acceptable values for BOD in
treated wastewater is 1-15 mg/L, COD is 60-70 mg/L, TSS 20-30 mg/L and pH around 7.0.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

65

6.2. The Mechanism of Worm Action in Vermifiltration


1) The twin processes of microbial stimulation and biodegradation, and the enzymatic
degradation of waste solids by worms as discussed above simultaneously work in the
vermifiltration system too.
2) Vermifilters provide a high specific area up to 800 sq m/g and voidage up to 60 %.
Suspended solids are trapped on top of the vermifilter and processed by earthworms
and fed to the soil microbes immobilized in the vermifilter.
3) Dissolved and suspended organic and inorganic solids are trapped by adsorption and
stabilized through complex biodegradation processes that take place in the living
soil inhabited by earthworms and the aerobic microbes. Intensification of soil
processes and aeration by the earthworms enable the soil stabilization and filtration
system to become effective and smaller in size.
4) Earthworms intensify the organic loadings of wastewater in the vermifilter soil bed
by the fact that it granulates the clay particles thus increasing the hydraulic
conductivity of the system. They also grind the silt and sand particles, thus giving
high total specific surface area, which enhances the ability to adsorb the organics
and inorganic from the wastewater passing through it. The vermicast produced on the
soil bed also offers excellent hydraulic conductivity of sand (being porous like sand)
and also high adsorption power of clay. This is ideal for diluted wastewater like
sewage. (Bhawalkar, 1995).
5) Earthworms also grazes on the surplus harmful and ineffective microbes in the
wastewater selectively, prevent choking of the medium and maintain a culture of
effective biodegrader microbes to function.

6.3. Critical Factors Affecting Vermifiltration of Wastewater


1. Worm Population and Density (Biomass) in Vermifilter Bed (Soil)
As the earthworms play the critical role in wastewater purification their number and
population density (biomass) in soil, maturity and health are important factors. This may
range from several hundreds to several thousands. There are reports about 8-10,000 numbers
of worms per square meter of the worm bed and in quantity (biomass) as 10 kg per cubic
meter (cum) of soil for optimal function.
2. Hydraulic Retention Time (HRT)
Hydraulic retention time is the time taken by the wastewater to flow through the soil
profile (vermifilter bed) in which earthworms inhabits. It is very essential for the wastewater
to remain in the vermifiltration (VF) system and be in contact with the worms for certain
period of time. HRT depends on the flow rate of wastewater to the vermifiltration unit,
volume of soil profile and quality of soil used. HRT is very critical, because this is the actual
time spent by earthworms with wastewater to retrieve organic mater from it as food. During
this earthworms carry out the physical and biochemical process to remove nutrients,
ultimately reducing BOD, COD and the TDSS. The longer wastewater remains in the system
in contact with earthworms, the greater will be the efficiency of vermi-processing and

66

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

retention of nutrients. Hence the flow of wastewater in the system is an important


consideration as it determines the retention of suspended organic matter and solids (along
with the chemicals adsorbed to sediment particles). Maximum HRT can results from slower
rate of wastewater discharge on the soil profile (vermifilter bed) and hence slower
percolation into the bed. Increasing the volume of soil profile can also increase the HRT. The
number of live adult worms, functioning per unit area in the vermifilter (VF) bed can also
influence HRT.
HRT of vermifiltration system can be calculated as
HRT = ( x Vs) / Q wastewater
where;
HRT = theoretical hydraulic retention time (hours)
Vs = volume of the soil profile (vermifilter bed), through which the wastewater flow and
which have live earthworms (cum)
= porosity of the entire medium (gravel, sand and soil) through which wastewater flows
Q wastewater = flow rate of wastewater through the vermifilter bed (cum / hr)
Thus the hydraulic retention time (HRT) is directly proportion to the volume of soil
profile and inversely proportion to the rate of flow of wastewater in the vermifilter bed.

3. Hydraulic Loading Rate (HLR)


The volume and amount of wastewater that a given vermifiltration (VF) system
(measured in area and depth of the soil medium in the vermifilter bed in which the
earthworms live) can reasonably treat in a given time is the hydraulic loading rate of the
vermifilter (VF) system. HLR can thus be defined as the volume of wastewater applied, per
unit area of soil profile (vermifilter bed) per unit time. It critically depends upon the number
of live adult earthworms functioning per unit area in the vermifilter bed. The size and health
of the worms is also critical for determining the HLR.
HLR of vermi-filtration system can be calculated as
HLR = V wastewater / (A X t)
whereLR = Hydraulic Loading Rate (m / hr)
V wastewater = volumetric flow rate of wastewater (cum).
A = Area of soil profile exposed (sqm).
t = Time taken by the wastewater to flow through the soil profile (hr).
High hydraulic loading rate leads to reduced hydraulic retention time (HRT) in soil and
could reduce the treatment efficiency. Hydraulic loading rates will vary from soil to soil. The
infiltration rates depend upon the soil characteristics defining pore sizes and pore size

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

67

distribution, soil morphological characteristics, including texture, structure, bulk density, and
clay mineralogy.

6.4. Some Preliminary Studies on Vermifiltration of Sewage


A pilot study on vermifiltration of sewage was made by Xing et al,. (2005) at Shanghai
Quyang Wastewater Treatment Facility in China. The earthworm bed which was 1m (long) x
1m (wide) x 1.6m (high), was composed of granular materials and earthworms. The worms
number was kept at about 8000 worms/sqm. The average chemical oxygen demand (COD)
value of raw sewage used was 408.8 mg/L that of 5 days biological oxygen demand (BOD5)
was 297 mg/L that of suspended solids (SS) was 186.5 mg/L. The hydraulic retention time
varied from 6 to 9 hours and the hydraulic loading from 2.0 to 3.0 m3 / (m2.d) of sewage. The
removal efficiency of COD ranged between 81-86 %, the BOD5 between 91-98 %, and the SS
between 97-98 %.
Gardner et. al.,(1997) studied on-site effluent treatment by earthworms and showed that it
can reduce the BOD and COD loads significantly. Taylor et. al., (2003) studied the treatment
of domestic wastewater using vermifilter beds and concluded that worms can reduce BOD
and COD loads as well as the TDSS (total dissolved and suspended solids) significantly by
more than 70-80 %. Hartenstein and Bisesi (1989) studied the use of earthworm for the
management of effluents from intensively housed livestock which contain very heavy loads of
BOD, TDSS and nutrients nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). The worms produced clean
effluents and also nutrient rich vermicompost. Bajsa et. al., (2003) also studied the
vermifiltraion of domestic wastewater using vermicomposting worms with significant results.

6.5. Experimental Study of Vermifiltration of Sewage


Chaudhry (2006) studied the vermifiltration of sewage using earthworms. The raw
sewage was obtained from the Oxley Wastewater Treatment Plant in South Brisbane. The
study was carried out in the same vermicomposting (VC) bin which was made to work as the
vermifiltration (VF) kit. This was located in PC2 lab of Griffith University, as a hazardous
material (raw sewage) was to be used. The temperature in lab was maintained at 21.50C, with
50% humidity. The Vermifiltartion kit contained about 30-40 kg of gravels with a layer of
garden soil on top. This formed the vermifilter bed. It has provisions to collect the filtered
water at the bottom in a chamber which opens out through a pipe fitted with tap. Above the
chamber lies the net of wire mesh to allow only water to trickle down while holding the
gravels above. The bottommost layer is made of gravel aggregates of size 7.5 cm and it fills
up to the depth of 25 cm. Above this lies the aggregates of 3.5 to 4.5 cm sizes filling up to
another 25 cm. On the top of this is the 20 cm layer of aggregates of 10-12 mm sizes mixed
with sand. The topmost layer of about 10 cm consists of pure soil in which the earthworms
were released.
The worms were given around one week settling time in the soil bed to acclimatize in the
new environment. As the earthworms play the critical role in wastewater purification their
number and population density (biomass) in soil, maturity and health are important factors.
This may range from several hundreds to several thousands. There are reports about 8-10,000

68

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

numbers of worms per cubic meter of the worm bed and in quantity (biomass) as 10 kg per
cubic meter (cum) of soil for optimal function. (Komarowski, 2001).However, in this
experiment we started with 500 worms in 0.025 cum of soil bed, which comes to about
20,000 worms per cum of soil. This means even lesser number of worms could have done the
job.

The Control Kit without Earthworms: Assessing the Precise Role of Worms
A control kit (exact replica of vermifilter kit but devoid of earthworms) was also
organised for reference and comparison. It is important to note that the soil and sand particles
and the gravels in the kit also contribute in the filtration and cleaning of wastewater by
adsorption of the impurities on their surface. They provide ideal sites for colonization by
decomposer microbes which works to reduce BOD, COD and the TDSS from the wastewater.
As the wastewater passes through, a layer of microbial film is produced around them and
together they constitute the geological and the microbial (geo-microbial) system of
wastewater filtration.
With more wastewater passing through the gravels there is more formation of biofilms
of decomposer microbes. Hence it is important to have a control kit in order to determine the
precise role of earthworms in the removal of BOD, COD and the TDSS.
Experiences, however, have shown that the geo-microbial system gets choked after
sometimes due to slow deposition of wastewater solids as sludge and becomes unoperational whereas, the vermifiltration system with earthworms continues to operate.
The Experimental Procedures
Around 5 6 litre of municipal wastewater (sewage) was kept in calibrated 10 litre
capacity PVC drum. These drums were kept on an elevated platform just near the vermifilter
kit, as shown in figure 1. The PVC drums had tap at the bottom to which an irrigation system
was attached. The irrigation system consisted of simple 0.5 inches polypropylene pipe with
holes for trickling water that allowed uniform distribution of wastewater on the soil surface
(vermifilter bed).

Figure 13. Vermifilter Kits : Regulated flow of wastewater from storage drums determining 12 hrs
HRT.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

Figure 14.

Figure 15.

Figure 16.

Figure 17.

69

Figures 14, 15, 16. Different sizes of gravels used in preparation of the vermifilter bed.
Figure 17. Soil bed with earthworms and the device of wastewater discharge and distribution through
perforated PVC pipes.

Wastewater from the drums flowed through the irrigation pipes by gravity. The
wastewater percolated down through various layers in the vermifilter bed passing through the
soil layer inhabited by earthworms, the sandy layer and the gravels and at the end was
collected in a chamber at the bottom of the kit. Next day this treated wastewater from both
kits were collected and analysed for BOD5 , COD and the TSS. The hydraulic retention time
(HRT) was kept uniformly between 1-2 hours in all experiments.

Key Parameters Studied in Sewage Vermifiltration


a) Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)
The biodegradable organic matter in wastewater is expressed as BOD (Biochemical
Oxygen Demand). It is the amount of oxygen needed in a specified volume of wastewater to
decompose organic material by the aerobic microbes. The unit of BOD is ppm or mg / L.
b) Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)
Many organic substances, which are difficult to oxidize biologically by aerobic microbes,
or are toxic to micro-organisms, such as lignin, can be oxidized chemically by using strong
oxidizing agent like dichromate (Cr2O7) in acidic media. The unit of COD is ppm or mg / L.

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

70

Earthworms can ingest and remove several organic substances from the wastewater
which otherwise cannot be oxidized by microbes and thus bring down the COD values
significantly.

c) Total Suspended Solid (TSS)


Solids in wastewater consist of organic and inorganic particles and they can either be
suspended or dissolved. They provide adsorption sites for chemical and biological
contaminants. As suspended solids degrade biologically, they can create toxic by-products.
TSS can be represented as mg/L or ppm
d) Turbidity
Turbidity is measured as the cloudiness of water and this is caused by suspended and
colloidal particles, such as clay, slit, finely divided organic matter. Turbidity is measured in
NTU ( Number of Transfer Units).
e) pH Value
pH is a symbol that represents negative base -10 logarithm of the effective concentration
of hydrogen ions (H+) in moles per Lit.
The Analytical Methods Used in Laboratory Study
The untreated sewage that was fed to the vermifilter kit and treated sewage which was
collected at the bottom of the kit in a chamber were analyzed to study the biological oxygen
demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), (TSS), turbidity and the pH value.
Following standard methods of analysis were adopted,
Table 10. Standard Methods adopted to study specified parameters
SR. No.
1
2
3
4
5

Description
Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD)
Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)
Total Suspended Solids (TSS)
Turbidity
PH

Standard Methods
405.1
5220C
160.2
180.1
D1293-99

The Experimental Results and Discussion


a) Removal of BOD5
Results shows that the earthworms can remove BOD (BOD5) loads by over 98 % or
nearly complete at hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 1-2 hours (Chowdhary, 2006). BOD
removal in the control kit (where only the geological and microbial system works) is just
around 77 %. (Table 11).

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

71

Table 11. BOD5 Removal of Municipal Wastewater (Sewage) Treated by Earthworms


(Vermifiltered) and Without Earthworms (Control) (HRT: 1- 2 hrs)
Expt
No

Untreated
Raw Sewage
BOD5 (mg/L)

Treated Sewage BOD5 (mg/L)


With Worms
Without Worms
(Vermifiltered) (CONTROL)

1
2
3
4
5

309
260
316
328
275

1.97
4.00
6.02
2.06
4.25

86.3
45.8
63.3
83.2
63.5

% Reduction
in BOD5 by
Earthworms
(Vermifiltered)
99.4
98.5
98.1
99.4
98.5

% Reduction in
BOD5 without
Earthworms
(CONTROL)
72.1
82.4
80.0
74.6
76.9

% Reduction in BOD5

Av. = 98.78 % Av. = 77.2 %.


Source: Chowdhary (2006).
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
1

Experim ent No

% Reduction in BOD5 by Earthworms (Vermifiltered)


% Reduction in BOD5 without Earthworms (CONTROL)

Figure 18. % Reduction in BOD5 of swage Water Treated With and Without Earthworms.

b) Removal of COD
Results shows that the average COD removed from the sewage by earthworms is over 45
% while that without earthworms (only the geological and microbial system in the control kit)
is just over 18 %. (Chowdhary, 2006). (Table 12). COD removal by earthworms is not as
significant as the BOD, but at least much higher than the microbial system.
Table 12. COD Removal of Municipal Wastewater (Sewage) Treated by Earthworms
(Vermifiltered) and Without Earthworms (Control) (HRT : 1 - 2 hrs)
Expt
No

Untreated
Raw Sewage
COD (mg/L)

Treated Sewage COD (mg/L)


With Worms
Without Worms
(Vermifiltered)
(CONTROL)

1
2
3
4
5

293
280
280
254
260

132
153
128
112
139

Av. = 45.7 % Av. = 18.4 %.


Source: Chowdhary (2006).

245
235
201
217
227

% Reduction
in COD by
Earthworms
(Vermifiltered)
54.9
45.4
54.3
55.9
46.5

% Reduction in
COD without
Earthworms
(CONTROL)
16.4
16.1
28.2
14.6
12.7

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

72

% Reduction in COD

100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
1

Experim ent No

% Reduction in COD by Earthworms (Vermifiltered)


% Reduction in COD without Earthworms (CONTROL)

Figure 19. % Reduction in COD of Sewage Wastewater Treated With and Without Earthworms.

c) Removal of TSS
Results shows that the earthworms can significantly remove the suspended solids from
the sewage by over 90 %, which in the control kit (where geological and microbial system
works together) is over 58 % only. (Chowdhary, 2006). (Table 13).
Table 13. TSS Removal Efficiency of Sewage Wastewater Treated by Earthworms
(Vermifiltered) and Without Earthworms (Control) (HRT 1 - 2 hrs)
Expt
No

Raw Untreated
Wastewater
TSS (mg/L)

Treated Wastewater TSS (mg/L)


With Worms
Without Worms
(Control)

1
2
3
4
5

390
374
438
379
407

28
24
22
27
25

116
190
184
179
168

% Reduction
in TSS by
Earthworms
(Vermifiltered)
92.82
93.58
94.97
92.87
93.85

% Reduction in
TSS without
Earthworms
(CONTROL)
70.25
49.19
57.99
52.77
58.72

Av. = 92.97 % Av. = 58.34 %. Source: Chowdhary (2006).

Table 14. Turbidity Removal of Municipal Wastewater (Sewage) Treated by


Earthworms (Vermifiltered) and Without Earthworms (Control) (HRT : 1- 2 hrs)
Expt
No

1
2
3
4
5

Untreated Raw
Sewage Turbidity
(NTU)
112
120
74
70
100

Treated Sewage Turbidity (NTU)


With Worms
(Vermifiltered)
1.5
0.6
1.1
1.2
1.1

Without Worms
(CONTROL)
3.6
1.5
1.2
1.8
2.0

Av.= 98.78 % Av.= 97.88 %. Source: Chowdhary (2006).

% Reduction in
Turbidity by
Earthworms
(Vermifiltered)
98.7
99.5
98.5
98.3
98.9

% Reduction in
Turbidity Without
Earthworms
(CONTROL)
96.8
98.8
98.4
97.4
98.0

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

73

% Reduction in BOD5

d) Turbidity Removal
Results indicates that the average reduction in turbidity by earthworms is over 98 %
while that without earthworms in the control kit is also significantly high and over 97 %.
(Chowdhary, 2006). (Table 14).

100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
1

Experim ent No

% Reduction in TSS by Earthworms (Vermifiltered)


% Reduction in TSS without Earthworms (CONTROL)
Figure 20. % Reduction in TSS of Sewage Wastewater Treated With and Without Earthworms.

% Reduction in Turbidity

100
80

% Reduction
in Turbidity by
Earthworms
(Vermifiltered)

60
40
20
0
1

% Reduction
in Turbidity
Without
Earthworms
(CONTROL)

Experiment No

Figure 21. % Reduction in Turbidity of sewage treated with and without Earthworms.

e) Improvement in pH Value of Treated Sewage


Results indicates that the pH value of raw sewage is almost neutralized by the
earthworms in the vermifilter kit. pH value of treated sewage without earthworms also
improved but it was not consistent in all experiments. (Table 15).

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

74

Table 15. Improvement in pH Value of Municipal Wastewater (Sewage) Treated by


Earthworms (Vermifiltered) and Without Earthworms (Control)
Expt. No

Untreated Raw Sewage pH

1
2
3
4
5

6.58
5.76
6.65
6.67
6.05

Treated Sewage pH
With Worms
Without Worms
(Vermifiltered)
(CONTROL)
7.05
6.62
7.35
6.05
7.00
7.47
7.25
6.95
7.06
7.15

Source: Chowdhary (2006).

Figure 22. Appearance of Sewage After and Before Treatment. Bottle A : The clear vermifiltered
sewage water; Bottle B: The hazy water from the controlled kit; Bottle C : The turbid and cloudy
sewage water.

6.5. Significance and Advantages of Vermi-filtration Technology Over


Conventional Wastewater Treatment Systems
Vermi-filtration system is low energy dependent and has distinct advantage over all the
conventional biological wastewater treatment systems- the Activated Sludge Process,
Trickling Filters and Rotating Biological Contactors which are highly energy intensive,
costly to install and operate and do not generate any income. Since the conventional
technologies are mostly the flow-processes and have finite hydraulic retention time (HRT) it
always results into a residual stream of complex organics and heavy metals (while only the
simple organics are consumed) in the sludge that needs further treatment (requiring more
energy) before landfill disposal. This becomes unproductive. In the vermifilter process there

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

75

is 100 % capture of organic materials, the capital and operating costs are less, and there is
high value added end product (vermicompost).

1) Vermifilter Treatment of Wastewater is an Odorless System


There is no foul odor as the earthworms arrests rotting and decay of all putrescible
matters in the wastewater and the sludge. They also create aerobic conditions in the soil bed
and the waste materials by their burrowing actions, inhibiting the action of anaerobic microorganisms which release foul odor.
2) Vermi-filtration is Low Energy System
Some energy may be required in pumping the wastewater to the vermi-filtration unit if
gravity flow is not adequate.
3) Synchronous Treatment of Wastewater and the Solids : End Products Become
Useful Resource for Agriculture and Horticulture
Earthworms decompose the organics in the wastewater and also devour the solids (which
forms the sludge) synchronously and ingest the heavy metals from both mediums. This
stabilized solids is discharged in the vermifilter bed as excreta (vermicompost) which is
useful soil additive for agriculture and horticulture.
4) Vermifiltered Wastewater is Free of Pathogens
As the earthworms devour on all the pathogens (bacteria, fungus, protozoa and
nematodes) in the medium in which they inhabit the resulting filtered water becomes free of
pathogens. The celeomic fluid secreted by worms which has anti-bacterial properties (Pierre
et, al., 1982) further eliminate the pathogens.
5) Vermifiltered Wastewater is Free of Toxic Chemicals (Heavy Metals and Endocrine
Disrupting Chemicals)
As earthworms have the capacity to bio-accumulate high concentrations of toxic
chemicals including heavy metals in their tissues the resulting wastewater becomes almost
chemical-free. Earthworms have also been reported to bio-accumulate endocrine disrupting
chemicals (EDCs) from sewage. Markman et al. (2007) have reported significantly high
concentrations of EDCs (dibutylphthalate, dioctylphthalate, bisphenol-A and 17 - estrdiol)
in tissues of earthworms (E.fetida) living in sewage percolating filter beds and also in garden
soil.

6.6. Decentralized Sewage Treatment by Vermifiltration at Source of


Generation
All above results were obtained with approximately 500 worms in the vermifilter bed
made in about 0.032 cubic meter (cum) of soil. This comes to approximately 16,000 worms
per cum of soil. The initial number of worms must have increased substantially over the
period of 7-8 weeks of experiment.

76

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

If a vermifilter bed of 0.3 cum soil is prepared with approximately 5000 worms (over 2.5
kg) to start with, it can easily treat 950 - 1000 L of domestic wastewater / sewage generated
by (on an average) a family of 4 people with average BOD value ranging between 300 - 400
mg/L, COD 100 300 mg/L, TSS, 300 350 mg/L everyday with hydraulic retention time
(HRT) of the wastewater in the vermifilter bed being approximately 1 - 2 hours. Given that
the worms multiply and double its number in at least every 60 days under ideal conditions of
temperature and moisture, even starting with this number of earthworms a huge population
(biomass) of worms with robust vermi-filtration system can be established quickly within few
months which will be able to treat greater amount of wastewater generated in the family. An
important consideration is the peak hour wastewater generation which is usually very high
and may not comply with the required HRT (1 - 2 hrs) which is very critical for sewage
treatment by vermi-filtration system. To allow 1 - 2 hrs HRT in the vermifilter bed an onsite
domestic wastewater storage facility will be required from where the discharge of wastewater
to the vermifilter tank can be slowly regulated through flow control.

7. THE VERMIREMEDIATION TECHNOLOGY (VRT)


Large tract of arable land is being chemically polluted due to mining activities, heavy use
of agro-chemicals in farmlands, landfill disposal of toxic wastes and other developmental
activities like oil and gas drilling. No farmland of world especially in the developing nations
are free of toxic pesticides, mainly aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex and
toxaphene. There are over 80,000 contaminated sites in Australia, over 40,000 in the US;
55,000 in just six European nations, over 7,000 in New Zealand, and about 3 million
contaminated sites in the Asia-Pacific. They mostly contain heavy metals cadmium (Cd), lead
(Pb), mercury (Hg), zinc (Zn) etc. and chlorinated compounds like the PCBs and DDT.
Cleaning them up mechanically by excavating the huge mass of contaminated soils and
disposing them in secured landfills will require billions of dollars.
Earthworms in general are highly resistant to many chemical contaminants including
heavy metals and organic pollutants in soil and have been reported to bio-accumulate them in
their tissues. Vermiremediation (using chemical tolerant earthworm species) is emerging as a
low-cost and convenient technology for cleaning up the chemically polluted / contaminated
sites / lands in world.
Earthworms Efficiently Remove Toxic Organic and Inorganic Chemicals from Soil:
Several species of earthworms but more particularly Eisenia fetida, Lumbricus terrestris and
L. rubellus, have been found to remove significant amounts of heavy metals, pesticides and
lipophilic organic micropollutants like the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from the
soil (Contreras-Ramos et. al, 2006). Several studies have found definite relationship between
organochlorine pesticide residues in the soil and their amount in earthworms, with an
average concentration factor (in earthworm tissues) of about 9 for all compounds and doses
tested. (Ireland, 1983). Studies indicate that the earthworms bio-accumulate or biodegrade
organochlorine pesticide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) residues in the
medium in which it lives. (Nelson et al., 1982; Ireland, 1983).
Earthworms especially E. fetida can bio-accumulate high concentrations of metals
including heavy metals in their tissues without affecting their physiology and this particularly

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

77

when the metals are mostly non-bioavailable. Studies indicate that they can take up and
bioaccumulate in their tissues heavy metals such as cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), lead (Pb),
copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn). They can ingest and
accumulate in their tissues extremely high amounts of zinc (Zn) and cadmium (Cd). Of all the
metals Cd and Pb appears to bio-accumulate in most species of earthworms at greater level.
They can particularly ingest and bio-accumulate extremely high amounts of cadmium (Cd)
which is very mobile and may be readily incorporated into soft and non-calcareous tissues of
earthworms. Cadmium levels up to 100 mg per kg dry weight have been found in tissues.
Contreras-Ramos et, al.,(2005) also confirmed that the earthworms reduced the
concentrations of chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn) and lead (Pb) in the vermicomposted
sludge (biosolids) below the limits set by the USEPA in 60 days. Malley et. al., (2006) also
studied bioaccumulation of copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) in E. fetida after 10 weeks of
experiment. (Table 16).
Table 16. Concentration of Cu and Zn in E. fetida Tissues Initially and After 10 Weeks

Initial sample
Control
Dosage 1
Dosage 2
Dosage 3

Cu (mg/Kg) SD
17.292
20.34 4
104.58 47
158.95 10
213.07 22

Zn (mg/Kg) SD
108.224
127.548
137.528
132.0316
138.5118

Source: Malley et al., (2006).

Some metals are bound by a protein called metallothioneins found in earthworms which
has very high capacity to bind metals. The chloragogen cells in earthworms appears to mainly
accumulate heavy metals absorbed by the gut and their immobilization in the small spheroidal
chloragosomes and debris vesicles that the cells contain.

7.1. Mechanism of Worm Action in Vermiremediation : The Uptake of


Chemicals from Soil and Immobilization by Earthworms
Earthworms uptake chemicals from the soil through passive absorption of the dissolved
fraction through the moist body wall in the interstitial water and also by mouth and
intestinal uptake while the soil passes through the gut. Earthworms eat large volume of soil
with microbes and organic matter during the course of their life in soil. Earthworms
apparently possess a number of mechanisms for uptake, immobilization and excretion of
heavy metals and other chemicals. They either bio-transform or biodegrade the chemical
contaminants rendering them harmless in their bodies.

a) Biotransformation of Chemical Contaminants in Soil


Heavy metals in earthworms are bound by a special protein called metallothioneins
which has very high capacity to bind metals. Ireland (1983) found that cadmium (Cd) and
lead (Pb) are particularly concentrated in chloragogen cells in L. terrestris and D. rubidus,
where it is bound in the form of Cd-metallothioneins and Pb-metallothioneins respectively

78

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

(i.e. bio-transformed) with small amounts deposited in waste nodules. The chloragogen cells
in earthworms appears to mainly accumulate heavy metals absorbed by the gut and their
immobilization in the small spheroidal chloragosomes and debris vesicles that the cells
contain.

b) Biodegradation of Chemical Contaminants in Soil: Earthworms Promote Microbial


Activity for Biodegradation
Ma et al., (1995) found that earthworms biodegrade organic contaminants like phthalate,
phenanthrene and fluoranthene. It may be noted that several soil microorganisms especially
bacteria and fungi also biodegrade several categories of chemicals including hydrocarbons in
soil. However, when earthworms are added to the soil they further stimulate and accelerate
microbial activity by increasing the population of soil microorganisms and also through
improving aeration (by burrowing actions) in the soil, and in totality enhance the rate of
biodegradation. The earthworms excrete the decomposer (biodegrader) microbes from their
gut into soil along with nutrients nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). These nutrients are used
by the microbes for multiplication and enhanced action.
Reinforcement of microbial activity by earthworms for biodegradation of chemical
contaminants in soil have been reported by Binet et al., (1998). Edward and Lofty (1972)
showed that the number of bacteria and actinomycetes contained in the ingested material by
earthworms increased up to 1000 fold while passing through the gut. A population of worms
numbering about 15,000 can in turn foster a microbial population of billions of millions.

7.2. Experimental Study of Vermiremediation of PAHs Contaminated Soils


Ryan (2006) studied the vermiremediation of PAHs contaminated soils by earthworms.
The soil was obtained from a former gas works site in Brisbane where gas was being
produced from coal. The initial concentration of total PAHs compounds in the soil at site was
greater than 11,820 mg/kg of soil. (Ryan, 2006). The legislative requirements for soil PAHs
concentration is only 100 mg/kg for industrial sites and 20 mg/kg for residential sites.
10 Kg of contaminated soil was taken in each of the four 40 litre black HDPE containers
and made into Treatments 1,2, 3 and 4. The first remained as control and no treatment was
done. In Treatment 2 approximately 500 earthworms (mixed species of E. fetida, Perionyx
excavatus and Eudrillus euginae) of varying ages and sizes were added to the soil. (Worms
were contained in about 2 kg of primary feed materials bought from Bunning Hardware). To
this was added 5 kg of semi-dried cow dung as secondary feed material. In Treatment 3, about
5 kg of kitchen waste organics were added as secondary feed material to the 500 worms. In
Treatment 4, only 5 kg of organic compost was added to the contaminated soil and no worms.
This was set up to assess the effect of only microbial action on the contaminated soil as any
organic compost is known to contain enormous amount of decomposer microbes.
In all the four treatments enough water was added time to time, to maintain the moisture
content between 70-80 % and were allowed to stand for 12 weeks. They were kept under
shade thoroughly covered with thick and moist newspapers to prevent any volatilization or
photolysis of the PAH compounds in the soil.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

79

Thus, Treatments 2 and 3 had total of 17 kg materials (10 kg contaminated soil + 2 kg of


primary feed materials with worms + 5 kg of secondary feed material added additionally).
Treatment 4 had 15 kg (10 kg soil + 5 kg compost). Due to addition of feed materials (cow
dung and kitchen waste) and compost in the contaminated soil significant dilution of PAH
compounds are expected to be made and was taken into consideration while determining the
impact of earthworms and the microbes in the removal of PAH compounds.
The results have been shown in tables 17 and 18 and figures 23 and 24. Mauli
Table 17. Removal of Some PAH Compounds from Contaminated Soil by Earthworms
Provided With Different Feed Materials (10 Kg Contaminated Soil + 500 Worms* in 2
kg Feed Materials With Additional Feed Materials Cow Dung (5kg) and Kitchen Waste
(5kg) for 12 Wks) and compost (5Kg)

Source: Ryan (2006).


*Mixed species of worms (E.fetida, Perionyx excavatus and Eudrillus eugeniae) were used.

Table 18. Percent Removal of Some PAH Compounds from Contaminated Soil by
Earthworms Provided With Different Feed Materials (10 Kg Contaminated Soil + 500
Worms* in 2 kg Feed Materials With Additional Feed Materials Cow Dung (5kg) and
Kitchen Waste (5kg) for 12 Wks)

Source: Ryan (2006).


(%) Values within bracket are those after taking the dilution factor (due to mixing of feed materials)
into account. This is just in 12 weeks period.

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

80

100.00%
Set 2 Soil +
Worms + Cow
Dung

% Removal

80.00%
60.00%

Set 3 Soil +
Worms +
Kitchen w aste

40.00%
20.00%

A
ve
ra
ge

hr
ys
en
F
B
e
lo
en
u
zo
ra
n
(k
th
)
e
F
ne
lo
ur
a
B
n
en
th
en
zo
e
(a
B
en
)
P
zo
yr
en
(g
e
,h
,i)
py
re
ne

(b
)

Set 4 Soil +
Compost (No
Worms)

B
en

B
en

zo

zo

(a
)

an
th
r

ac
en
e

0.00%

Extracte d PAH Com pounds

100.00%
80.00%

Set 2 Soil +
Worms +
Cow Dung

60.00%
40.00%
20.00%

(a
)a
nt
hr
ac
en
e
Be
C
nz
hr
o
ys
(b
en
)F
e
Be
lo
ur
nz
a
o
nt
(k
he
)F
ne
lo
ur
D
ib
an
en
th
zo
en
e
(a
,
h
Be
)P
nz
yr
o
en
(g
e
,h
,i )
py
re
ne
Av
er
ag
e

0.00%

Be
nz
o

% Removal (Considering dilution factor)

Figure 23. Percent removal of PAH from contaminated soil by earthworms, provided with different
feed materials.

Set 3 Soil +
Worms +
Kitchen
waste
Set 4 Soil +
Compost
(No Worms)

PAH Com pounds

Figure 24. Percent removal of some PAH compounds from contaminated soil by earthworms provided
with different feed materials, after taking the dilution factor (due to mixing of feed materials) into
account.

Findings and Results


Results confirm the decisive role of earthworms in PAHs removal which can be by both
activities bioaccumulation, and by promoting microbial activities. When microbial activity
in the soil is enhanced alone (without aided by earthworms) by adding microbe rich organic
compost to the soil (Treatment 4) the removal rate of PAHs are not very significant. This
indicates that earthworms acts in a different manner and contributes decomposer microbes for
hydrocarbons which otherwise is normally not available in soil or in ordinary compost.
Singleton et al. (2003) has reported some uncultured bacterial flora tightly associated with

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

81

the intestine of the earthworms. Some of them, such as Pseudomonas, Acaligenes and
Acidobacterium are known to degrade hydrocarbons.
Providing the earthworms with additional feed materials in the form of cow dung and
kitchen waste (Treatments 2 and 3) must have played important role in raising worm activity
and in its reproductive behavior, and also in stimulating the soil microbial activity. There was
not much significant difference in the impact of two types of feeds. Ma et al. (1995) showed
an increase in PAH loss from polluted soil when the worms were denied of any additional
source of food. They concluded that earthworms increase oral intake of soil particles when
driven by hunger stress and consequently ingested more PAHs polluted soil. While this may
be a temporary phenomenon in short time (9 weeks of study by authors) it can never be a
long-term strategy because any bioremediation treatment of polluted soil is time-taking in
months and years. Worms would starve and die by then. And, adding organic feed materials
to the polluted soil has several other advantages. It promotes microbial activities in soil and
when the worms ingest them and excrete the excreted products are nutrient rich organic
fertilizers.

7.3. Advantages of Vermiremediation Technology: Earthworms Improves


Total Quality of Soil in Terms of Physical, Chemical and Biological
Properties
Significantly, vermiremediation leads to total improvement in the quality of soil and land
where the worms inhabit. Earthworms significantly contribute as soil conditioner to improve
the physical, chemical as well as the biological properties of the soil and its nutritive value.
They swallow large amount of soil everyday, grind them in their gizzard and digest them in
their intestine with aid of enzymes. Only 5-10 percent of the chemically digested and ingested
material is absorbed into the body and the rest is excreted out in the form of fine mucus
coated granular aggregates called vermicastings which are rich in NKP (nitrates, phosphates
and potash), micronutrients and beneficial soil microbes including the nitrogen fixers and
mycorrhizal fungus. The organic matter in the soil undergo humification in the worm
intestine in which the large organic particles are converted into a complex amorphous colloid
containing phenolic materials. About one-fourth of the organic matter is converted into
humus. The colloidal humus acts as slow release fertilizer in the soil.
During the vermi-remediation process of soil, the population of earthworms increases
significantly benefiting the soil in several ways. A wasteland is transformed into
wonderland. Earthworms are in fact regarded as biological indicator of good fertile soil
(Neilson, 1951). One acre of wasteland when transformed into fertile land may contain more
than 50,000 worms of diverse species. Bhawalkar and Bhawalkar (1994) experimented and
concluded that an earthworm population of 0.2 1.0 million per hectare of polluted land /
wasteland can be established within a short period of three (3) months.

82

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

8. THE VERMI-AGRO-PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGY (VAPT)


Vermiculture biotechnology promises to usher in the Second Green Revolution through
Organic Farming doing away with the destructive agro-chemicals which did more harm than
good to both the farmers and their farmland during the First Green Revolution of the 1960s.
Earthworms restore and improve soil fertility and boost crop productivity by the use of their
metabolic product - vermicast / vermicompost (Tomati and Galli, 1995). They promote soil
fragmentation and aeration, and brings about soil turning and dispersion in farmlands. On an
average 12 tons / hectare / year of soil or organic matter is ingested by earthworms, leading to
upturning of 18 tons of soil / year, and the world over at this rate it may mean a 2 inches of
fertile humus layer over the globe (Bhawalkar and Bhawalkar, 1994). Earthworms excrete
beneficial soil microbes, and secrete polysaccharides, proteins and other nitrogenous
compounds into the soil from their body to improve the physical, chemical and the biological
properties of soil.

8.1. Earthworms Vermicast / Vermicompost : A Miracle Growth Promoter


Vermicompost produced by biodegradation of MSW by earthworms is a nutritive plant
food rich in NKP (2 - 3 % nitrogen, 1.85 2.25 % potassium and 1.55 2.25 % phosphorus),
micronutrients, beneficial soil microbes like nitrogen-fixing bacteria and mycorrhizal
fungi and are wonderful growth promoters (Buckerfield, et al.,1999). Kale and Bano (1986)
reports as high as 7.37 % of nitrogen (N) and 19.58 % phosphorus as P2O5 in worms
vermicast). Moreover, vermicompost contain enzymes like amylase, lipase, cellulase and
chitinase, which continue to break down organic matter in the soil (to release the nutrients and
make it available to the plant roots) even after they have been excreted. (Chaoui et al., 2003).
Vermicompost has very high porosity, aeration, drainage and water holding capacity
and also contains plant-available nutrients. Vermicompost appears to retain more nutrients
for longer period of time and also greatly increases the water holding capacity of the farm soil
(Hartenstein and Hartenstein, 1981; Appelhof, 1997).

a) High Level of Plant-Available Nutrients


Atiyeh et al. (2000) found that the conventional compost was higher in ammonium,
while the vermicompost tended to be higher in nitrates, which is the more available form of
nitrogen. The nitrogenous waste excreted by the nephridia of the worms is mostly urea and
ammonia. The ammonium in the soil is bio-transformed into nitrates. Patil (1993) found that
earthworm recycle nitrogen in the soil in very short time. The quantity of nitrogen recycled is
significant ranging from 20 to 200 kg N/ha/year.
Barley and Jennings (1959) reported that worms significantly improve soil fertility by
increasing nitrogen contents. Hammermeister et al. (2004) also found that vermicompost has
higher N availability than the conventional compost on a weight basis. They also found that
the supply of several other plant nutrients e.g. phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S) and
magnesium (Mg), were significantly increased by adding vermicompost as compared to
conventional compost to soil.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

83

b) High Level of Beneficial and Biologically Active Soil Microorganisms


Earthworms hosts millions of beneficial microbes (including the nitrogen fixers) in their
gut and excrete them in soil along with nutrients nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in their
excreta i.e. vermicast (Singleton et al., 2003). The nutrients N and P are further used by the
microbes for multiplication and vigorous soil remediation action. The mycorrhizal fungi
encouraged by the earthworms transfer phosphorus by increasing solubilisation of mineral
phosphate by the enzyme phosphatase. Edward and Fletcher (1988) and Edwards (1999)
showed that the number of beneficial bacteria and actinomycetes contained in the ingested
material increased up to 1000 fold while passing through the gut. A population of worms
numbering about 15,000 will in turn foster a microbial population in billions. (Morgan and
Burrows, 1982).
c). Enhance Seed Germination
Worms castings used as a seed germinator produce rapid results with a superior strike
rate of unusually healthy seedlings

d) Rich in Growth Hormones: Ability to Stimulate Plant Growth


Researches show that vermicompost further stimulates plant growth even when plants are
already receiving optimal nutrition. Vermicompost has consistently improved seed
germination, enhanced seedling growth and development, and increased plant productivity
much more than would be possible from the mere conversion of mineral nutrients into plantavailable forms (Edwards and Burrows, 1988). Arancon (2004) found that maximum benefit
from vermicompost is obtained when it constitutes between 10 to 40 % of the growing
medium. Atiyeh et al. (2000) speculates that the growth responses of plants from
vermicompost appears more like hormone-induced activity associated with the high levels
of humic acids and humates in vermicompost rather than boosted by high levels of plantavailable nutrients. This was also indicated by Canellas et al. (2002) who found that humic
acids isolated from vermicompost enhanced root elongation and formation of lateral roots in
maize roots. Tomati et al. (1985) had also reported that vermicompost contained growth
promoting hormone auxins and flowering hormone gibberlins secreted by earthworms.

8.2. Earthworms Reduce Soil Salinity, Renew Soil Fertility and Improve
Crop Productivity
Earthworms not only help renew the natural soil fertility but also improve the soil pH and
reduce soil salinity. Hota and Rao (1985) reported that three tropical earthworm species viz.
Perionyx millardi, Octocheaetona surensis and Drawida calebi survived in saline solutions of
9.5 gm, 8.5 gm and 7 gm NaCl per liter (L) respectively. In a study made by Kerr and Stewart
(2006) at the US Department of Energy it was found that E. fetida can tolerate soils nearly
half as salty as seawater i.e. 15 gm / kg of soil. (Average seawater salinity is around 35 g/L).
Farmers at Phaltan in Satara district of Maharashtra, India, applied vermiculture (live
earthworms) on his sugarcane crop grown on saline soils irrigated by saline ground water.
The yield was 125 tones / hectare of sugarcane and there was marked improvement in soil
chemistry. Within a year there was 37 % more nitrogen, 66 % more phosphates and 10 %

84

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

more potash. The chloride content was less by 46 %. Farmer in Sangli district of Maharashtra,
India, grew grapes on eroded wastelands and applied vermicasting @ 5 tones / hectare. The
grape harvest was normal with improvement in quality, taste and shelf life. Soil analysis
showed that within one year pH came down from 8.3 to 6.9 and the value of potash increased
from 62.5 kg/ha to 800 kg/ha. There was also marked improvement in the nutritional quality
of the grape fruits (Bhawalkar and Bhawalkar, 1994).

8.3. Vermicompost Protects Plants Against Various Pests and Diseases


There has been considerable anecdotal evidence in recent years regarding the ability of
vermicompost to protect plants against various pests and diseases either by suppressing or
repelling them or by inducing biological resistance in plants to fight them or by killing them
through pesticidal action. Agarwal (1999),also reported less incidence of diseases in
vegetable crops grown on vermicompost.
Vermicompost also contains some antibiotics and actinomycetes which help in increasing
the power of biological resistance among the crop plants against pest and diseases. Pesticide
spray was reduced by 75 per cent where earthworms and vermicompost were used in
agriculture. The actinomycetes fungus excreted by the earthworms in their vermicast produce
chemicals that kill parasitic fungi such as Pythium and Fusarium.

a) Ability to Repel Pests


There seems to be strong evidence that worms varmicastings sometimes repel hardbodied pests (Anonymous, 2001; Arancon, 2004). Edwards and Arancon, (2004) reports
statistically significant decrease in arthropods (aphids, buds, mealy bug, spider mite)
populations, and subsequent reduction in plant damage, in tomato, pepper, and cabbage trials
with 20 % and 40 % vermicompost additions. George Hahn, doing commercial
vermicomposting in California, U.S., claims that his product repels many different insects
pests. His explanation is that this is due to production of enzymes chitinase by worms which
breaks down the chitin in the insects exoskelton (Munroe, 2007).
b) Ability to Suppress Disease
Edwards and Arancon (2004), also found statistically significant suppression of plantparasitic nematodes in field trials with pepper, tomatoes, strawberries and grapes. The
scientific explanation behind this concept is that high levels of agronomically beneficial
microbial population in vermicompost protects plants by out-competing plant pathogens for
available food resources i.e. by starving them and also by blocking their excess to plant roots
by occupying all the available sites. This concept is based on soil-foodweb studies
pioneered by Dr. Elaine Ingham of Corvallis, Oregon, U.S.(http://www.soilfoodweb.com).
Edwards and Arancon (2004) reported the agronomic effects of small applications of
commercially produced vermicompost, on attacks by fungus Pythium on cucumber,
Rhizoctonia on radishes in the greenhouse, by Verticillium on strawberries and by Phomposis
and Sphaerotheca fulginae on grapes in the field. In all these experiments vermicompost
applications suppressed the incidence of the disease significantly. They also found that the
ability of pathogen suppression disappeared when the vermicompost was sterilized,

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

85

convincingly indicating that the biological mechanism of disease suppression involved was
microbial antagonism. More studies is required to develop this potential of vermicompost as
a sustainable, non-toxic and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical pest control or
at least its application in farming practices can also lead to significant reduction in use of
chemical pesticides.

8.4. Vermiwash: The Nutritive Liquid Byproduct of Vermicomposting Rich


in Growth Promoting and Pesticidal Properties
The brownish-red liquid which collects at the base of vermcomposting unit due to high
moisture content in the compost pile should be collected. This liquid partially comes from the
body of earthworms too (as worms body contain plenty of water) and is rich in amino acids,
vitamins, nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and copper and
some growth hormones like auxins, cytokinins. It also contains plenty of nitrogen fixing
and phosphate solubilising bacteria (nitrosomonas, nitrobacter and actinomycetes).
Farmers from villages near Rajendra Agricultural University in Bihar reported growth
promoting and pesticidal properties of this liquid. They used it on brinjal and tomato with
excellent results. The plants were healthy and bore bigger fruits with unique shine over it.
Spray of vermiwash effectively controlled all incidences of pests and diseases, significantly
reduced the use of chemical pesticides and insecticides on vegetable crops and the products
were significantly different from others with high market value. These farmers are using
vermicompost and vermiwash in all their crops since last 2 years completely giving up the use
of chemical fertilizers. (Personal Communication With Farmers in Pusa, December 2006).

8.5. Experimental Studies on Agronomic Impacts of Earthworms and


Vermicompost on Crop Plants
1) Potted Wheat Crops
Bhatia (1998) and Bhatia et al. (2000) studied the agronomic impact of earthworms on
potted wheat crops at University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India. Wheat seeds (Triticum aestivum
Linn) and earthworms were obtained from Rajasthan Agricultural Research Institute, Jaipur.
Three identical sets of pots with ten replicates of each were prepared from uniform soil of the
same stock, which was assumed to be near neutral, i.e., without any organic matter. Three sets
of 10 pots each were prepared.
1) Treatment 1 was kept as a control (without any input);
2) In Treatment 2, fifty (50) worms (mixed species of Eisinia fetida, Perionyx excavatus
and Eudrillus euginae) were added to each pot and 250 gm of one week old cattle
dung (allowing release of methane from fresh dung) was added as feed material for
the worms.
3) In Treatment 3, chemical fertilizers (104 gms urea, 0.2 gms potash and 0.75 gms
single super phosphate) were added;

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

86

4) In Treatment 4, about 250 gm of week old cattle dung was added to precisely
determine the role of earthworms in growth promotion as the dung also contain
nutrients and support growth after degradation and conversion into compost.
Ten seeds were sown in each pot (10 x 10 = 100 in ten pots) after mixing the soil with the
respective fertilizers (Urea was added in two identical doses, one at the time of sowing and
another 21 days).
Results are given in table 19.
Table 19. Agronomic Impacts of Earthworms Compared With Chemical Fertilizers on
Growth and Yield of Potted Wheat Crops (Triticum aestivum Linn.)

Parameters

(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
(5)
(6)
(7)
(8)
(9)
(10)

Number of seed
germinated out of 100
Root length (Av. cm)
Shoot length (Av. cm)
Ear length (Av. cm)
Total height of plant (Av.
cm)
Leaf length (Av. cm)
Dry weight of ears
(Av. cm)
Number of seed grains per
ear (Average)
Chlorophyll content (mg/l)
Number of tillers per plant

Treatment 1
Control

Treatment 2
Soil Containing
Earthworms (50
Nos.) and Cattle
Dung (As feed
material)

Treatment 3
Soil With
Chemical
Fertilizers
(N=104 gm;
K=0.2 gm;
P=0.75 gm)

Treatment 4
Soil Containing
Cattle Dung
(250 gm) only

50

90

60

56

7.13
22.1
4.82

16.46
59.99
8.77

9.32
25.2
5.45

8.23
23.1
5.1

34.16

85.22

39.97

37.30

12.73

26.37

14.19

13.45

0.135

0.466

0.171

0.16

11.8

31.1

19.9

17.4

0.783
1

3.486
2-3

1.947
1-2

1.824
1-2

Scale

Source: Bhatia (1998) and Bhatia et al. (2000): Also in Sustainable Agriculture (Sinha, 2004).; Key:
Av. = Average.
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
Percentage of
seed
germination

Root length
(cm)

Shoot length Ear length (cm) Total height of


(cm)
plant (cm)

Leaf length
(cm)

Dry w eight of
ears (gm)

Number of
seed grains
per ear

Chlorophyll
Number of
content (mg/l) tillers per plant

Parameter
Set
Set
Set
Set

1
2
3
4

Control
Soil with Chemical Fertilizers
Soil Containing Live Earthworms & Cow Dung (as feed material)
Soil Containing Cattle Dung

Figure 25. Agronomic Impacts of Earthworms Compared With Chemical Fertilizers on Growth and
Yield of Potted Wheat Crops (Triticum aestivum Linn.).

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

87

Findings and Results


The potted wheat crops with earthworms and added cattle dung as feed materials
(Treatment 2) made excellent progress from the very beginning of seed germination up to
maturation. They were most healthy and green, leaves were broader, shoots were thicker and
the fruiting ears were much broader and longer with average greater number of seed grains
per year. Significantly, they were much better even as compared to those grown on chemical
fertilizers (Treatment 3). Worms fed on cattle dung and excreted them as vermicast
(vermicompost) which worked as the miracle growth promoter. Wheat crops added with
cattle dung only (Treatment 4) were almost close to those grown on chemical fertilizers. The
dung was eventually converted into compost by soil microbes which worked as growth
promoter.
2) Potted and Farm Wheat Crops
Reena Sharma (2001) studied the agronomic impacts of vermiculture on the potted as
well as on the farm wheat crops at University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India. In this experiment
live population of earthworms and vermicompost were applied separately to pot and farm
soil. Same mixed species of worms e.g. E. fetida, P. excavatus and E. euginae were used and
vermicompost was also prepared by using same species by composting kitchen waste and
cattle dung. The farm was divided into eight plots of 25 x 25 sqm size. Three treatments were
prepared:
1) Vermicompost : In the pots 30 gm of vermicompost was used while in the farm it
was used @ 2.5 tonnes / ha.
2) Chemical Fertilizers (NPK) : As urea (N), single super phosphate (P) and potash (K),
in one full dose and two reducing doses for the pots and one for farm. Vermicompost
(30 gm) were applied with both reduced doses of chemical fertilizers;
3) Earthworms : In each pot 50 numbers of earthworms were used, while 1000 worms
were released in the farm plot of 25 x 25 sq. mt. ; and
4) The fourth farm plot was kept as control (no inputs).
All the treatments were replicated twice. The wheat seed was grown @ 100 kg/ha.
Irrigation schedule was maintained as recommended for wheat. Chemical nitrogen (urea) was
applied in two split doses (first half at the time of sowing and second half dose after 21 days
of sowing) whereas the phosphate and potash fertilizers were applied as single dose at the
time of sowing. Results are given in tables 20 and 21.

Findings and Results


In the pot experiments the best growth performance in respect of root, shoot and ear
length and their weight, weight of 1000 grains were observed where a combination of reduced
dose (3/4) of chemical fertilizer (NPK-90:75:60) and normal amount of vermicompost (30
gm) were applied. It was significantly much better than even where full doses of chemical
fertilizers were used. More significantly, both vermicompost and earthworms positively
influenced the total yield of the grains which is 19.2 and 19.1 grains / ear respectively.

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

88

Table 20. Agronomic Impact of Earthworms, Vermicompost and Chemical Fertilizers


on Potted Wheat Crops
Treatments

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Vermicompost
Earthworms (50 Nos.)
NPK (120:100:80) Full Dose
NPK (90:75:60) Reduced Dose + VC
NPK (60:50:40) Reduced Dose + VC
CONTROL

Shoot
Length
(cm)
41.11
39.27
42.14
47.89
45.96
37.01

Ear
Length
(cm)
7.65
6.74
7.67
8.91
8.59
5.83

Root
Length
(cm)
15.5
8.35
16.35
20.2
18.3
7.18

Wt. Of 1000
grains (gm)

Grains/
Ear

33.38
32.41
30.2
40.58
39.29
27.28

19.2
19.1
17.1
18.67
18.91
15.4

Source : Sharma (2001); In Sustainable Agriculture (Sinha, 2004); Key : VC= Vermicompost.

Table 21. Agronomic Impact of Earthworms, Vermicompost and Chemical Fertilizers


on Farm Wheat Crops
Treatments

1.
3
4
5.

Shoot
Length
(cm)
Vermicompost (@ 2.5 t / ha)
83.71
NPK (90:75:60) (Reduced Dose) + VC 88.05
(Full Dose)
NPK (120:100:80) (Full Dose)
84.42
CONTROL
59.79

Ear
Length
(cm)
13.14
13.82

Root
Length
(cm)
23.51
29.71

Wt. Of 1000
grains (In
grams)
39.28
48.02

Grains /
Ear

14.31
8.91

24.12
12.11

40.42
34.16

31.2
27.7

32.5
34.4

Source : Sharma (2001): In Sustainable Agriculture (Sinha, 2004); Key: VC = Vermicompost.


Key: VC= Vermicompost; N = Urea; P = Phosphate; K = Potash.
60
50

Scale

40
30
20
10
0
Vermicompost

Live Earthw orms NPK (120:100:80) NPK ( 90:75:60 ) + NPK (60:50:40) +


(50 Nos.)
VC
VC

CONTROL

Parameters
Shoot Length (cm)
Root Length (cm)
Grains/Ear

Ear Length (cm)


Wt. of 1000 grains (gm)

Figure 26. Agronomic Impact of Earthworms, Vermicompost and Chemical Fertilizers on Potted Wheat
Crops.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

89

100
90
80

Scale

70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
Shoot Length

Ear Length

Root Length

Wt. of 1000 grains

Grains / Ear

Parameters
Vermicompost

Earthworms (1000 Nos.)

NPK (90:75:60) + VC

CONTROL

Figure 27. Agronomic Impact of Earthworms, Vermicompost and Chemical Fertilizers on Farm Wheat
Crops.

Findings and Results


In the farm experiment the highest growth and yield was achieved where reduced doses
(3/4) of chemical fertilizer (NPK- 90:75:60) were applied with full dose of vermicompost (@
2.5 tons/ha). However, the total yield of the grain (grain / ear) as well as the ear length and the
weight of 1,000 grains of crops grown on vermicompost were as good as with those grown on
full doses of chemical fertilizers (NPK).
3). Farmed Wheat Crops
This facility was provided by Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa, Bihar, India under a
collaborative research program with Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. We studied the
agronomic impacts of vermicompost and compared it with cattle dung compost & chemical
fertilizers in exclusive application and also in combinations on farmed wheat crops. Cattle
dung compost was applied four (4) times more than that of vermicompost as it has much less
NPK values as compared to vermicompost. Results are given in table - 22
Table 22: Agronomic Impacts of Vermicompost, Cattle Dung Compost & Chemical
Fertilizers in Exclusive Applications & In Combinations on Farmed Wheat Crops
Treatment
Input / Hectare
Yield / Hectare
1). CONTROL
(No Input)
15.2 Q / ha
2). Vemicompost (VC)
25 Quintal VC / ha
40.1 Q / ha
3). Cattle Dung Compost (CDC) 100 Quintal CDC / ha
33.2 Q / ha
4). Chemical Fertilizers (CF) NPK (120:60:40) kg / ha
34.2 Q / ha
5). CF + VC
NPK (120:60:40) kg / ha + 25 Q VC / ha
43.8 Q / ha
6). CF + CDC
NPK (120:60:40) kg / ha + 100 Q CDC / ha
41.3 Q / ha
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Suhane et. al., (2008): Communication of RAU, Pusa, Bihar, India


Key: N = Urea; P = Phosphate; K = Potash (In Kg / ha)

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

90

50

Control

45
40

Vermicompost (25
Q / ha)

35
30

Cattle Dung
Compost (100 Q /
ha)

25
20

Chemical Fertilizer
(NPK 120: 60:40)

15
10

CF (Full Dose) +
VC (25 Q / ha)

5
0
Yield (Quintal / hectare)

CF (Full Dose) +
CDC (100 Q / ha)

Figure 28: Agronomic Impacts of Vermicompost, Cattle Dung Compost & Chemical
Fertilizers in Exclusive Applications & In Combinations on Farmed Wheat Crops

Findings & Discussion


Exclusive application of vermicompost supported yield comparable to rather better than
chemical fertilizers. And when same amount of agrochemicals were supplemented with
vermicompost @ 25 quintal / ha the yield increased to about 44 Q / ha which is over 28 %
and nearly 3 times over control. On cattle dung compost applied @ 100 Q / ha (4 times of
vermicompost) the yield was just over 33 Q / ha. Application of vermicompost had other
agronomic benefits. It significantly reduced the demand for irrigation by nearly 30-40 %. Test
results indicated better availability of essential micronutrients and useful microbes in
vermicompost applied soils. Most remarkable observation was significantly less incidence of
pests and disease attacks in vermicompost applied crops.
4). Potted Corn Crops
Sinha & Bharambe (2007) studied the agronomic impacts of earthworms & its
vermicompost on corn plants at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. It had two parts A &
B. Part A was designed to compare the growth promoting abilities of vermicompost with
chemical fertilizers and also the earthworms when significantly present in the growth
medium. It had three (3) treatments with three replicas of each and a control. Treatment 1
with 25 number of adult worms only; Treatment 2, with chemical fertilizers; and Treatment 3,
with vermicompost and also containing same number of worms. Soluble chemical fertilizers
Thrive was used. Approx. 8 gm of chemicals was dissolved in 4.5 L of water. It had total
nitrogen (N) 15 %, total phosphorus (P) 4 %, total potassium (K) 26 % and a combination of
essential micronutrients. Three applications were made during entire growth period while the
worms and vermicompost was applied only onetime. Results are given in table 23 (a).

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

91

Table 23 (a). Agronomic Impacts of Earthworms, Worms With Vermicompost and


Chemical Fertilizers on Corn Plants (Added to 4 kg of soil; Av.Growth in cm)

Parameters Studied

CONTROL
(No Input)

Treatment 1
EARTHWORMS
Only (25 Nos.)
(Without Feed)

Treatment 2
Soluble
CHEMICAL
FERTILIZERS

Treatment 3
EARTHWORMS +
VERMICOMPOST
(200 gm)

Seed Sowing
Seed Germination

29th July 2007


9th Day

Do
7th Day

Do
7th Day

Do
7th Day

Avg. Growth in 4
wks

31

40

43

43

Avg. Growth in 6
wks

44

47

61

58

App. Of Male Rep.


Organ (In wk 12)

None

None

46

53

87

None

None

None

48

53
(App. Of Male
Rep. Organ)

88

95

None

None

None

New Corn

53

56

92

105

Pale & thin


leaves

Green & thin

Avg. Growth
In 12 wks
App. of Female Rep.
Organ (In wk 14)
Avg. Growth in
15 wks
App. Of New Corn
(in wk 16 )
Avg. Growth in
19 wks
Color & Texture of
Leaves

Male Rep.
Organ

Green & stout


leaves

Male Rep.
Organ

90
Female Rep. Organ

Green, stout &


broad leaves

Source: Sinha & Bharambe (2007)

Findings and Results


Corn plants in pot soil with earthworms and vermicompost (Treatment 3 Pot D)
achieved good growth after week 4, and those with chemical fertilizers (Treatment 2 Pot C)
after week 6. After that, both maintained good growth over the other two (Control &
Treatment 1 Pots A & B) and attained maturity in 11 weeks (appearance of male spike).
Female reproductive organ, however, appeared in corn plants grown on vermicompost only in
14 weeks. The new corn appeared after 111 days (in week 16).
Until week 4, corn plants in all four treatments showed almost identical growth.
Ironically, the corn plants in pot soil with worms only (Treatment 1) could not make any
significant progress. Soil being completely devoid of organics could not be used by worms to
produce any vermicast. However, they were all greener and healthier than control. Another
significant finding was that pot soil with vermicompost demanded less water for irrigation as
compared to others.

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

92

120

100
CONTROL

Height in cm

80
EARTHWORMS (25)
Without Feed

60

Soluble CHEMICAL
FERTILIZERS (NPK)
40

EARTHWORMS (25) +
VERMICOMPOST (200
gm)

20

0
Avg. Growth Avg. Growth
in 4 wks
in 6 wks

Avg. Growth Avg. Growth Avg. Growth


in 12 wks
in 15 wks
in 19 wks

Figure 29 : Agronomic Impacts of Earthworms, Worms With Vermicompost and Chemical Fertilizers
on Corn Plants (In 19 Weeks Period)

(1). (Growth until 4 weeks)

(2). (Growth until 6 weeks)

(3). (Growth until 12 weeks)


Plants with chemical fertilizers (CF) and
vermicompost (VC) grew well; Male spikes
appeared in both plants in week 11.
Keys:

(4). (Growth until 15 weeks)


Plants with CF and VC maintained excellent
growth; Female reproductive organs appeared
in VC only in week 14 and new corn in week 16.

(A) Pot soil without any input (CONTROL)


(B) Pot soil with worms only
(C) Pot soil with chemical fertilizers
(D) Pot soil with worms and vermicompost (200gm)

Figure 6 (a). Photo showing growth of corn plants under the influence of earthworms, worms with
vermicompost and chemical fertilizers.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

93

Part B
This study was designed to test the growth promoting capabilities of earthworms added
with feed materials and vermicompost, as compared to conventional compost. It had three
(3) treatments with three (3) replicas of each. The dose of vermicompost was doubled (400
gm) from previous study and same amount of conventional compost was used. Only one
application of each was made. Crushed dry leaves were used as feed materials (400 gm).
Results are given in table 23 (b).
Table 23 (b). Agronomic Impacts of Earthworms (With Feed), Vermicompost and
Conventional Compost on Corn Plants (Added to 4 kg of soil ; Av. Growth in cm)

Parameters Studied
Seed Sowing
Seed Germination
Avg. Growth in 3 wks
Avg. Growth in 4 wks
App. of Male Rep. Organ (in wk 6)
Avg. Growth in 6 wks
Avg. Growth in 9 wks
App. Of Female Rep. Organ (in wk
10)
App. of New Corn (in wk 11)
Avg. Growth in 14 wks
Color & Texture of Leaves

Treatment 1
Earthworms
(25) with Feed
(400 gm)
9th Sept. 2007
5th Day
41
49
None
57
64

Treatment2
Conventional
COMPOST
(400 gm)
Do
6th Day
42
57
None
70
72.5

Treatment 3

None

None

Female Rep. Organ

None
82

None
78

Green & thick

Light green & thin

New Corn
135
Deep green, stout,
thick & broad leaves

VERMICOMPOST
(400 gm)
Do
5th Day
53
76
Male Rep. Organ
104
120

Source : Sinha & Bharambe (2007)

160

Growth in cm

140
120

Earthworms (25) With


Feed (400 gm)

100
80

Conventional COMPOST
(400 gm)

60

VERMICOMPOST(400 gm)

40
20
0
Avg.
Avg.
Avg.
Avg.
Avg.
Growth in Growth In Growth In Growth Growth
3 wks
4 wks
6 wks In 9 wks in 14 wks

Figure 30: Agronomic impacts of Earthworms (with feed), Vermicompost and Conventional
Compost on Corn Plants (In 14 Weeks Period)

94

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

Findings and Results


Corn plants in pot soil mixed with vermicompost (Treatment 3) achieved rapid and
excellent growth after week 4 and attained maturity very fast. Between weeks 6 to 11, there
was massive vegetative growth with broad green leaves. Male spike appeared in week 6 while
the female reproductive organs appeared in week 10 which bored the new corn in 11th
week. Corn plants in pot soil with worms only (Treatment 1) and conventional compost
(Treatment 2) could not keep pace with vermicompost. Corn plants with worms only,
however, were more green and healthy and took over those plants grown on conventional
compost finally in the 14th week. Female reproductive organs and new corn could not
appear until the completion of the study by 21st November 2007.

Keys:

(A) Pot soil with earthworms only


(B) Pot soil mixed with conventional compost (400 gm)
(C) Pot soil mixed with vermicompost (400 gm)

Figure 6 (b). Photo showing growth of corn plants under the influence of earthworms, conventional
compost and vermicompost.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

95

Results of both studies (Part A & B) established beyond doubt that the vermicompost
(metabolic products of worms) works like miracle growth promoter and is biologically
(nutritionally) much superior to the conventional compost. This has also been found by other
researchers (Subler et al., 1998; Pajon (Undated); and Bogdanov, 2004). And what is most
significant is that when the dose of vermicompost is doubled (from 200 grams in Part A
study to 400 grams in Part B, all other conditions remaining same) it simply enhanced total
plant growth to almost two-fold (from average 58 cm on 200 gm VC to average 104 cm on
400 gm VC) within the same period of study i.e. 6 weeks. Corn plants with double dose of
vermicompost (400 gm) achieved maturity in much shorter time. Male reproductive organs
(spike) appeared after 81 days (in week 12) in plants grown on 200 gm of vermicompost,
while in those grown on 400 grams, it appeared just after 39 days (in nearly half of the time in
week 6). Similarly, the female reproductive organs and eventually the new corn appeared
after 96 days (in week 14) and 111 days (in week 16 ) respectively in plants grown on 200
grams of vermicompost, while it appeared only after 69 days (in week 10) and 75 days (in
week 11) respectively, in plants grown on 400 grams of vermicompost. It is also significant
to note that the corn plants with earthworms only, performed better over those grown on
conventional compost, once again establishing the role of earthworms as growth promoters.
Study also confirmed that vermicompost is superior over conventional compost as
growth promoter & in retaining soil moisture while also helping the plants to attain maturity
and reproduce faster, thus reducing the life-cycle of crops and also shortening the
harvesting time. Conventional compost fails to deliver the required amount of macro and
micronutrients including the vital NKP (nitrogen, potassium & phosphorus) to plants in
shorter time. The leaves and stems of corn plants grown on vermicompost was much greener,
broader and stouter than those grown on conventional compost (Sinha and Bharambe, 2007).

8.5.1 Current Experimental Study on Potted Wheat, Corn and Tomato


Plantys Under Progress: Some Striking Observations of Plants Under
Vermicompost
Valani, Dalsukh and Chauhan, Krunal (2008) is currently studying the agronomic impacts of
vermicompost vis--vis conventional cow dung compost and chemical fertilizers on wheat,
corn and tomato plants. Some very exciting results have started appearing in the very
beginning of the study.

1). High Strike Rates of Wheat Seed Germination


The striking rates of wheat seeds were very high under vermicompost. They germinated
nearly 48 hours (2 days) ahead of others and the number of seeds germinated were also high
by nearly 20 %. The seedlings are also much greener and healthier and have more offshoots..
2). Rapid Growth of Corn Seedlings
There was not much difference in the striking rates of seed germination but once germinated
the seedlings grew at a much faster rate almost doubling in size (from 22 cm to 42 cm) in just
two days. Seedlings are more greener, stouter and healthier than others.

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Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

3). More Flowering and Rapid Growth of Tomato Fruits


Flowering in tomato plants under vermicompost was delayed by 5-6 days but once started
there were greater numbers of flowers (average 7-8 per plant as compared to 5-6 in chemical
fertilizers) and subsequently fruit developments. Significantly, the fruits grew in size very
rapidly overtaking all others and are much greener.
One more striking observation is that the tomato plants on vermicompost are showing greater
adaptability to higher temperature (about 30 - 35 C) in the glasshouse.

CONCLUSIONS AND REMARKS


Vermiculture practices for waste and land management and for improving soil fertility to
boost crop productivity has grown considerably in recent years all over the world.
Vermiculture is in fact a technological revival of the traditional age-old methods practiced by
the ancient farmers for disposal of farm wastes and improvement of farm fertility by
earthworms. It is like getting gold from garbage (solid waste) by vermicomposting, silver
from sewage (wastewater) by vermifiltration; converting a wasteland (chemically
contaminated and saline lands) into wonderland (fertile land) by vermiremediation;
harvesting green gold (crops) by using brown gold (vermicompost) and all with the help of
earthworms which are abundant in soil all over the world but most prominently in the tropical
nations. The three versatile species E. fetida, E. euginae and P. excavatus performing wide
environmental functions occur almost everywhere. Earthworms are justifying the beliefs and
fulfilling the dreams of Sir Charles Darwin as unheralded soldiers of mankind. (Sinha and
Sinha, 2007).

9.1. The Vermicomposting Technology (VCT)


Earthworms have real potential to both increase the rate of aerobic decomposition and
composting of organic matter, and also to stabilize the organic residues in them, while
removing the harmful pathogens and heavy metals from the end products. Waste composting
by earthworms is proving to be environmentally preferred technology over the conventional
microbial composting technology and much more over the landfill disposal of wastes as it is
rapid and nearly odorless process, can reduce composting time significantly and above all,
there is no emission of greenhouse gas methane which plagues both these solid waste
management options. Vermicomposting of organic waste to divert massive domestic waste
from the landfills are gaining importance and many municipal council in Australia are
adopting this rapid and odorless vermicomposting technology (VCT) using waste eater
earthworms.(UNSW ROU, 2002(a) and 2002(b)).
Poor nations cannot even afford to construct and maintain a truly engineered landfill.
Developing countries needs more options for safe waste management, and also low-cost, as
they have several other social and developmental priorities with limited resources. Moreover,
in the rural communities of both developed and developing world, centralized waste
management system is never a good option. Individual households or a cluster of homes can

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

97

treat their wastes better and also recover some useful resources (compost). This will prove
more useful in the rural areas where farms are located.
The worm number and quantity (biomass) is a critical factor for vermi-composting of
organic wastes besides the optimal temperature and moisture which determines worm
activity. A minimum of about 100-150 adult worms per kg of waste would be ideal to start
with for rapid biodegradation and also odor-free process. Vermicomposting process driven by
the earthworms tends to become more robust and efficient with time as the army of degrader
worms grows and invade the waste biomass and further proliferating several battalions of
aerobic decomposer microbial army.
What is of greater significance is that earthworms accept and adapt to all kinds of new
food products (even the fried foods) of modern civilization (except a few) to which their
ancestors were never used to in history and readily degrade them converting into
vermicompost.

9.2. The Vermifiltration Technology (VFT)


Vermifiltration of wastewater is a logical extension of soil filtration which has been
used for sewage silviculture (growing trees) since ancient days. Healthy soil is a biogeological medium acting as an adsorbent of organics, inorganic, pathogens and parasites.
Vermifiltration technology (VFT) can be a most cost-effective and odor-free process for
sewage treatment with efficiency, economy and convenience. Any non-toxic wastewater from
the households, commercial organizations or industry can be successfully treated by the
earthworms and the technology can also be designed to suit a particular wastewater. It can be
used in a de-centralized manner in individual industry or cluster of similar industries so as to
reduce the burden on the wastewater treatment plants down the sewer system. It can treat
dilute (less than 0.1 % solids) as well as concentrated wastewater. It has an in-built pH
buffering ability and hence can accept wastewater within a pH range of 4 to 9 without any pH
adjustment. Though significant removal of BOD, COD and the TDSS is achieved by the geomicrobial system unaided by earthworms (as shown from our study in the control kit) the
system fails to work after some time as it is frequently choked due to the formation of sludge
and also colonies of bacteria and fungi (in the vermifilter bed) in the absence of the
earthworms which constantly keep devouring on them. Presence of earthworms in the system
also improve the adsorption properties of the geological system (sands and soils) by
grinding them in their gizzard.
Vermifiltration process driven by the earthworms also tends to become more robust and
efficient with time as the army of degrader worms grows, further proliferating microbial
population (army of aerobic decomposers). It is also a compact biological wastewater
treatment system as compared to other non-conventional system such as the constructed
wetland system which often suffer from limitations of oxygen for the decomposer aerobic
microbes to act efficiently. Wetland based technologies involve mainly treatment and low
utilization of waste materials and hence can be wasteful.
BOD, COD, TSS and turbidity removal efficiency generally increases with increase in
HRT up to a certain limit and is positively affected by the number of earthworms
(earthworms biomass) per cubic meter (cum) in the vermifilter bed (soil profile). It can reduce
the small BOD loadings of sewage (200-400 mg/L) within 30 40 minutes of HRT. Worms

98

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

have been found to remove very high BOD loads (10,000 1,00,000 mg/L often found in
wastewater from food processing industries) within 4 to 10 hours of HRT. If the population of
worms were to be higher, the same efficiency of BOD, COD, TSS and turbidity removal
could have been achieved at lower HRT.
However, in case of municipal wastewater (sewage) treatment the objectives are not only
to remove BOD, COD and TDSS, but also to remove the toxic chemicals including the heavy
metals and pathogens from the wastewater. The presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals
(EDCs) in sewage which was discovered recently with the development of new instruments
(Markman et. al., 2007) is causing great concerns these days. And what is the matter of more
serious concern is that they cannot be removed by the conventional sewage treatment
methods. They can only be removed by the reverse osmosis methods of membrane filtration
technology (MFT) which is cost-prohibitive at present and all nations cannot afford it. The
cost-effective vermifiltration technology (VFT) assumes great significance in the removal of
EDCs from wastewater. Hence greater hydraulic retention time (1-2 hours) is allowed so that
the worms can ingest (bio-accumulate) the toxic chemicals and also devour upon the
pathogens completely. Greater interaction with wastewater components also provides better
opportunity for the worms to eat all the solids and prevent any sludge formation.
Vermi-filtration of wastewater must be started with higher number of earthworms, at
least over 15,000-20,000 worms per cubic meter (cum) of soil in the vermifilter bed for good
results. It is also important that they are mostly adult and healthy worms. In vermicomposting of solid waste, which is a continuous process (in days and weeks) the worms
have to act gradually in phases while their population (new army of bio-degraders) keeps on
building up to intensify the biodegradation process. In vermifiltration of wastewater, the
worms have to act instantly as the wastewater flow past their body (degrading the organics,
ingesting the solids and the heavy metals). That is why the wastewater has to be retained
(HRT) in the vermifilter bed for some appropriate period time (which has to be in hours and
not in days) while the worms act on the wastewater.

9.3. The Vermiremediation Technology (VRT)


Earthworms have great potential in removing hydrocarbons and many other chemicals
from contaminated soil, even the PAHs like benzo(a)pyrene which is very resistant to
degradation. They are extremely resistant to toxic PAHs and tolerate concentrations normally
not encountered in the soil. It is important to mention here that nearly 80 % removal (60-65 %
if the dilution factor is taken into account) of seven important PAH compounds was achieved
in just 12 weeks period and that too with only about 500 worms (of both mature and juvenile
population) in 10 kg of soil (50 worms/kg of soil). And this was during the winter season in
Brisbane (March May 2006) when the biological activities of worms are the lowest ebb.
Increasing the number of worms per kg of contaminated soil to about 100 mature adult worm
/kg of soil, and the time of remediation up to 16 weeks could have completely (100 %)
removed the PAH compounds. Contreras-Ramos et. al, (2006) studied with 10 worms / 50
gms of contaminated soil (which is equivalent to 200 worms / kg of soil) in about 11 weeks
and got 50-100 % removal of some PAHs.
Many soils contain abundance of pores with diameters of 20 nm or less. Such pores are
too small to allow the smallest bacterium (1 um), protozoa (10 um) or root hairs (7 um) to

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

99

penetrate and attack the chemicals. A chemical contaminant residing in such fine pores in soil
is thus completely protected from attack by a microbe in the soil for biodegradation action. In
other words such chemical contaminants are not bio-available for any biological action.
Earthworms play a very important and critical role here by enlarging the pores through
continuous burrowing actions in the soil, thus allowing the microbes to enter into the pores
and act on the contaminants. It also stimulate the population of decomposer microbes to
several folds for enhanced biodegradation action. The gizzard in the earthworms helps to
grind the food very thoroughly with the help of tiny stones swallowed by the worms into
smaller particles 2-4 m in size. This grinding action may serve to make PAHs or any other
chemical contaminants sequestered in the soil bio-available to decomposer microbes for
degradation.
Vermi-remediation may prove very cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way
to treat polluted soils and sites contaminated with hydrocarbons in just few weeks to months.
With the passage of time, the remedial action is greatly intensified. As the worms multiply at
an enormous rate it can quickly achieve a huge arsenal for enhanced degradation of PAHs in
much shorter time. Comparing the cost incurred in mechanical treatment by excavation of
contaminated soils and their safe dumping in secured landfills (as hazardous wastes), this
technology is most economic. More study will be needed on the PAH removal activities of
earthworms with and without additional feed materials and upon different categories and
doses of organic feed.

9.4.The Vermi-Agro-Production Technology (VAPT)


Earthworms when present in soil inevitably work as soil conditioner to improve the
physical, chemical as well as the biological properties of the soil and its nutritive value for
healthy plant growth. This they do by soil fragmentation and aeration, breakdown of organic
matter in soil and release of nutrients, secretion of plant growth hormones, proliferation of
nitrogen-fixing bacteria, increasing biological resistance in crop plants, and all these worm
activities contribute to improved crop productivity. (Barley, 1959).
Studies have found that if 100 kg of organic waste with say, 2 kg of plant nutrients (NPK)
are processed through the earthworms, there is a production of about 300 kg of fresh living
soil with 6 % of NPK and several trace elements that are equally essential for healthy plant
growth. This magnification of plant nutrients is possible because earthworms produce extra
nutrients from grinding rock particles with organics and by enhancing atmospheric nitrogen
fixation. Earthworms activate this ground mix in a short time of just one hour. When 100 kg
of the same organic wastes are composted conventionally unaided by earthworms, about 30
kg compost is derived with 3 % NPK. This usual compost thus has a total NPK of only about
1 kg. Rest one kg nutrient might have been leached or volatilized during the process of
composting. (Bhawalker and Bhawalkar, 1993 and 1994).
The metabolic products (vermicast / vermicompost) of worm activities (feeding and
excretion) works like a miracle growth promoter. Vermicompost is agronomically much
superior to conventional microbial compost sold in the market and can play very important
role in promoting growth in crop plants, even competing with chemical fertilizers as our
studies have shown. It is mainly due to the growth promoting factors (hormones and
enzymes) that is present in the vermicompost. Study shows that doubling the dose of

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Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

vermicompost almost double the growth of corn plants within the same period and can help
attain maturity much earlier.
Worms and its vermicompost have tremendous crop growth promoting potential while
maintaining soil health and fertility and significantly reducing (by over 80 %) the use of
chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and in some crops can even replace them completely. This
is what being termed as sustainable agriculture.
Use of vermicompost in farm soil eventually leads to increase in the number of
earthworm population in the farmland over a period of time, as the baby worms grow out
from their cocoons contained in the vermicast. In Argentina, farmers who use vermicompost
consider it to be seven (7) times richer than conventional composts in nutrients and growth
promoting values (Pajon (Undated); Munroe, 2007). No wonder, Sir Charles Darwin, the
great visionary scientist of 19th Century, called the earthworms as friends of farmers and
unheralded soldiers of mankind working day and night under the soil.

Tribute to the Earthworms


Earthworms are justifying the beliefs and fulfilling the dreams of Charles Darwin. He
wrote a book in which he emphasized that there may not be any other creature in world that
has played so important a role in the history of life on earth (Bogdanov, 2004). One of the
leading authorities on earthworms and vermiculture studies Dr. Anatoly Igonin of Russia has
said Nobody and nothing can be compared with earthworms and their positive influence on
the whole living Nature. They create soil and everything that lives in it. They are the most
numerous animals on Earth and the main creatures converting all organic matter into soil
humus providing soils fertility and biospheres functions: disinfecting, neutralizing,
protective and productive. (Appelhof, 2003). There can be little doubt that mankinds
relationship with worms is vital and needs to be nurtured and further expanded.

REFERENCES AND MORE READINGS


Anonymous (2001): Vermicompost as Insect Repellent; Biocycle, Jan. 01: p. 19.
Agarwal, Sunita (1999): Study of Vermicomposting of Domestic Waste and the Effects of
Vermicompost on Growth of Some Vegetable Crops; Ph.D Thesis Awarded by University
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Australia.
Sharma, Reena (2001) : Vermiculture for Sustainable Agriculture : Study of the Agronomic
Impact of Earthworms and their Vermicompost on Growth and Production of Wheat
Crops; Ph.D. Thesis, submitted to the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India.
(Supervision: Dr. Rajiv K. Sinha).
Standards Australia (1995 a): Australian StandardsTM Method 6; Thermotolerant Coliforms
and Escherichia coli Estimation of Most Probable Number (MPN), AS 4276.6.
Sinha, Rajiv K. (2004): Sustainable Agriculture; Surabhee Publication, Jaipur, India; ISBN
81-86599 60 6; p.370.
Standards Australia (1995 b): Australian StandardsTM Method 8; Water Microbiology
Faecal streptococci - Estimation of Most Probable Number (MPN), AS 4276.8.
Standards Australia (1995 c): Australian StandardsTM Method 14; Water Microbiology
Salmonellae- Estimation of Most Probable Number (MPN), AS 4276.14.
Safawat, H., Hanna, S., Weaver, R.W. (2002): Earthworms Survival in Oil Contaminated
Soil; J. of Plant and Soil; Vol. 240: pp. 127-132.
Sims, R.C. and Overcash, M.R. (1983): Fate of Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PNAs)
in Soil-Plant Systems; Residue Reviews, Vol. 88: pp. 2-68.
Sharma, Reena (2001) : Vermiculture for Sustainable Agriculture : Study of the Agronomic
Impact of Earthworms and their Vermicompost on Growth and Production of Wheat
Crops; Ph.D. Thesis, submitted to the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur (Supervised by Dr.
R.K. Sinha).
Sadhale, Nailini (1996) : (Recommendation to Incorporate Earthworms in Soil of
Pomogranate to obtain high quality fruits); In Surpalas Vrikshayurveda, Verse 131. (The
Science of Plant Life by Surpala, 10th Century A.D.); Asian Agri-History Bulletin; No. 1.
Secunderabad, India.
Subler, Scott., Edwards, Clive., and Metzger, James (1998): Comparing Vermicomposts and
Composts; Biocycle, Vol. 39: pp. 63-66.
Suhane, R.K. (2007): Vermicompost; Publication of Rajendra Agriculture University, Pusa,
Bihar, India.
Suhane, R.K, Sinha, Rajiv.K. & Singh, Pancham.K. (2008): Communication of Rajendra
Agriculture University, Pusa, Bihar, India.

Vermiculture Biotechnology: The Emerging Cost-Effective

109

Tang, J., Liste, H., Alexander, M. (2002): Chemical Assays of Availability to Earthworms of
PAHs in Soil; J. of Chemosphere, Vol.48: pp. 35-42.
Tomati, V., Grappelli, A., Galli, E. (1983) : Fertility Factors in Earthworm Humus; In Proc.
of International Symposium on Agriculture and Environment : Prospects in Earthworm
Farming; Rome, pp. 49-56.
Tomati, V.; Grappelli, A. and Galli, E. (1987) : The Presence of Growth Regulators in
Earthworm - Worked Wastes; In Proceeding of International Symposium on
Earthworms; Italy; 31 March- 5 April, 1985; pp. 423-436.
Tomati, V. and Galli, E. (1995): Earthworms, Soil Fertility and Plant Productivity; Acta
Zoologica Fennica; Vol. 196, pp. 11-14.
Taylor et. al (2003): The treatment of domestic wastewater using small-scale vermicompost
filter beds; Ecological Engineering; Vol. 21; pp. 197-203.
Toms, P. Leskiw, J., and Hettiaratchi, P. (1995): Greenhouse Gas Offsets : An Opportunity
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UNSW, ROU (2002 b): Best Practice Guidelines to Managing On-Site Vermiculture
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(Viewed
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2004)
www.resource.nsw.gov.au/data/
Vermiculture%20BPG.pdf
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Dr. Rajiv Sinha with his vermiculture team at Griffith University, Australia.

In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 3

HUMAN WASTE - A POTENTIAL RESOURCE:


CONVERTING TRASH INTO TREASURE BY
EMBRACING THE 5 RS PHILOSOPHY FOR SAFE
AND SUSTAINABLE WASTE MANAGEMENT
Rajiv K. Sinha1, Sunil Herat2, Gokul Bharambe3, Swapnil Patil3,
Pryadarshan Bapat3, Krunal Chauhan3 and Dalsukh Valani3
1

School of Engineering (Environment), Griffith University, Nathan Campus, Brisbane,


QLD-4111, Australia
2
School of Engineering (Environment), Griffith University
3
School of Engineering (Environment), Griffith University

Keywords: Culture of Consumerism; Culture of Disposables; Packaging Culture; Australians


and Americans as Superconsumers and Waste Generators; Waste A Misplaced
Resource; Traditional Societies Recycling Societies; Modern Society Throwaway
Society; Waste Source of Greenhouse Gases; Vermiculture Movement for Efficient and
Cost-effective Waste Management.

1. INTRODUCTION
Waste is being generated by the human societies since ancient times. Ironically waste was
not a problem for the environment when men were primitive and uncivilized. Waste is a
problem of the modern civilized society. Materials used and waste generated by the
traditional societies were little and simple while those by the modern human societies are
large and complex. With modernization in development drastic changes came in our
consumer habits and life-style and in every activity like education, recreation, traveling,
feeding, clothing and housing we are generating lots of wastes. The world today generate

Corresponding Author: Rajiv.Sinha@griffith.edu.au

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Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.

about 2.4 billion tones of solid waste every year in which the Western World alone
contributes about 620 million tones / year.
Discarded products arising from all human activities (cultural and developmental) and
those arising from the plants and animals, that are normally solid or semi-solid at room
temperature are termed as solid wastes. Municipal solid waste (MSW) is a term used to
represent all the garbage created by households, commercial sites (restaurants, grocery and
other stores, offices and public places etc.) and institutions (educational establishments,
museums etc.). This also includes wastes from small and medium sized cottage industries.
We are facing the escalating economic and environmental cost of dealing with current
and future generation of mounting municipal solid wastes (MSW), specially the technological
(developmental) wastes which comprise the hazardous industrial wastes, and also the health
cost to the people suffering from it. Developmental wastes poses serious risk to human health
and environment at every stage from generation to transportation and use, and during
treatment for safe disposal. Another serious cause of concern is the emission of greenhouse
gases methane and nitrous oxides resulting from the disposal of MSW either in the landfills or
from their management by composting.
Dealing with solid household waste in more sustainable ways involves changes not only
to everyday personal habits, consumerist attitudes and practices, but also to the systems of
waste management by local government and local industry and the retailers.
This chapter reviews the causes and consequences of escalating human waste, the
increasing complexity of the waste generated, and the policies and strategies of safe waste
management. It also provides food for thought for future policy decisions that government
of nations may have to take to reduce waste and divert them from ending up in the landfills,
drawing experiences from both developed nation (Australia) and a developing nation (India).

2. CITIES AS THE CENTERS OF MOUNTING MUNICIPAL WASTES


Cities have become major centers of consumption and waste generation all over the
world. In fact a city consumes as well as produce. This is called urban metabolism. City
use some 75 % of world resources and release a similar proportion of wastes. According to
UN Population Fund Report (1990), a city with one million population consumes 2000 tones
of food and 9,500 tones of fuel, generating 2000 tones of solid wastes (garbage and excreta)
and 950 tones of air pollutants; consumes 6,25,00 tones of pure water and secrete 5,00,000
tones of sewage. (UNEP, 1996).
United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) worked out the urban metabolism of
London city. Greater London with a population of 7 million consumed 2,400,000 tones of
food; 1,200,000 tones of timber; 2,200,000 tones of paper; 2,100,000 tones of plastics;
360,000 tones of glass; 1,940,000 tones of cement; 6,000,000 tones of bricks, blocks, sand
and tarmac; 1,200,000 tones of metals every year and produced 11,400,000 tones of industrial
and demolition wastes; 3,900,000 tones of household, civic and commercial wastes and
7,500,000 tones of wet, digested sewage sludge. Everyday London dispose off some 6,600
tones of household wastes. (UNEP, 1996).

Human Waste - A Potential Resource: Converting Trash into Treasure

113

3. MODERN CULTURE OF CONSUMERISM: THE ROOT OF WASTE


PROBLEM
The root of waste problem is the culture of consumerism and is directly proportional to
the affluency of the human societies. To this has added the culture of disposables. Large
number of goods in the society are being manufactured for only one time use, and to be
discarded as waste after use. Modern urban culture of using canned and bottled foods,
frozen foods, take-away foods, exchange of greeting cards on all occasions, using
disposable home equipments (spoons, cups, plates, tumblers and safety razors), medical
instruments (syringes, sharps and needles), office equipments (writing pens and utilities), and
plastic bags in all grocery shopping has escalated the solid waste problems.
People all over the world consume food and the 5 Ps (paper, power, petrol, potable water
and plastics) in their daily life without realizing the environmental consequences and costs of
the waste generated in their production, distribution, and consumption. Every commodity
processed from natural resources, and every consumer product, from shampoo to
champagne has an environmental cost and generally causes some damage to the
environment, before use, as a source of pollution during production, and after use, as
waste (Eklington and Hailes, 1989).

3.1. Waste Generation Is Proportional to Resource Consumption


and the Way We Use Resources
Consuming resources and generating wastes are two sides of the same coin. The way
we use resources to maintain our quality of life, assumes as much significance in waste
generation as the sheer amount of resources that we use. For instance, one kilogram of steel
might be used in a construction that lasts hundreds of years or in the manufacture of several
cans thrown away just after a few uses. A few kilograms of PVC plastic materials might be
molded into durable home and office furniture, water and sewer pipes, and remain useful for
decades or might be used to manufacture plastic bags to be used just once or twice and then
thrown away as enduring waste.

Packaging Culture Proliferate Waste Generation


Packaging materials have become part of our modern culture and generate huge amounts
of waste. Manufacturers and retailers see packaging as a way to attract purchasers. Everything
needs fine packaging today, from cornflakes to computers, from gifts to garments, from
flowers to foods. Life today cannot be imagined without plastic bags, glass bottles, paper
boxes, tins and cans. Plastics are versatile, convenient and light weight good packaging
material but ultimately end up as a non-biodegradable waste in the landfills to remain
intact for centuries.
On average each European Union citizen is currently responsible, directly or indirectly,
for the generation of some 172 kg of packaging waste every year. Packaging waste
generation increased by 10 % in the EU between 1997 and 2002. Per capita consumption of
plastics increased by almost 50 % from 64 kg / year in 1990 to 95 kg / year in 2002. Only UK

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managed to actually reduce, and Austria stabilize the generation of packaging waste since
1997. (GEO, 2006).
Plastic consumption in Australia has increased from negligible quantities in the early
1940s to enormous quantities today. Plastics made up around one-third of all rubbish
collected on Clean Up Australia Day (Clean Up Australia 2004). Even though Australians
reduced their use of plastic shopping bags by around one-fifth between 2002 and 2004, each
person was still using almost one bag per day (EcoRecyle 2006). Australians use 6 billion
plastic bags every year much of that end up in landfills. These bags form litter, infest and
block waterways, kill animals.

The Ecological Footprint of Global Human Population


The Measure of Resource Consumption and Waste Generation. An ecological footprint is
an estimate of the average area of productive land and water required to maintain a given
populations resource consumption and waste generation. (Table 1). In this instance we
simply use it to indicate the comparable cost and sheer significance of waste generation.
Australia with a small population of just 19.5 million, is part of the North developed world,
and Australians are super-consumers and super-waste makers.
Table 1. Ecological Footprints of Human Population on Earth Reflecting Resource
Consumption Vis--Vis Waste Generation (2002)
Total
Population
(millions)
World
High income countries
Middle income countries
Low income countries
Australia
United Kingdom
China
Asia Pacific (regional)
Canada
USA

6 225.0
925.6
2 989.4
2 279.8
19.5
59.3
1302.3
3448.4
31.3
291.0

Total
Ecological
Footprint
(global ha/person)
2.2
6.4
1.9
0.8
7.0
5.6
1.6
1.3
7.5
9.7

Total
Energy Footprint
(global ha/person)
1.2
4.1
0.9
0.3
4.0
3.6
0.7
0.6
4.6
6.3

Total
Biocapacity*
(global
ha/person)
1.8
3.4
2.1
0.7
11.3
1.6
0.8
0.7
15.1
4.7

Source: Global Footprint Network (2005).


*Biocapacity includes cropland, grazing land, forest and fishing ground.
High income countries includes Australia.

In developing Asian countries, consumption and waste generation is growing at an


unprecedented pace and populous countries like China and India are becoming consumerist.
The consuming class in India is estimated at around 100 million, and in China at 200
million; traditional conservative Indians believing in modesty, simple living and saving, are
gradually giving way to rich generations highly influenced by the consumerist North (UNEP,
2006). China manufactures, packages, transports, distributes nationally and for export over 60
billion pairs of disposable wood chopsticks which use up over 32 million trees, harvested

Human Waste - A Potential Resource: Converting Trash into Treasure

115

unsustainably, indeed China risks being without forests within ten years.(<http://blog.
bcchinese.net/bingfeng/archive/2006/01/25/51815.aspx>).

4. WASTE GENERATED IN THE RICH VIS-A-VIS IN THE POOR


SOCIETIES OF WORLD
The United Nations Environment Program (1992) carried out a study of per capita waste
generation in the low, middle and the high-income countries and found it to be 0.5, 1.5 and
3.5 kg. per day per person respectively. The solid wastes generated in the rich affluent
societies of the developed nations are exceptionally large in quantity and varied in quality
(components). Of these, a considerable part is hazardous waste.

4.1. Waste Generated in the Rich Developed Countries of World


The World Watch Institute (1991), Washington, reported that 14 out of 16 members of
OECD countries showed increase in generation of MSW per person between 1980 85. In
the US, each sunset sees a new mountain of nearly 410,000 tones of garbage. (Toth, 1990).
The countries of the European Community (EC) throws away an estimated 2 billion tones of
solid waste each year. Only Japan and West Germany produced less waste, but after
unification MSW in Germany skyrocketed. Americans, Canadians and Australians are great
waste makers. They generate roughly twice as much garbage per person as West Europeans
or Japanese do. In his /her lifetime an average American wear and discard 250 shirts and 115
pairs of shoes; use and discard 27,50 newspapers, 3900 weekly magazines and 225 pounds of
phone directories; consume 12,000 paper grocery bags, use 28,627 aluminum cans weighing
1022 pounds, use 69,250 pounds of steel and 47,000 pounds of cement. The Scandinavian
nations generate much less waste than the Americans and Europeans. (WWI, 1991; UNEP,
1996).
Table 2. Average Per Capita Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Generated by Some
Developed Nations Country Waste Generation Per Day (in Kg)
Country
USA
Japan
France
Singapore
Germany
Italy

Waste Generation Per Day (in Kg)


1.80 2.60
1.38 - 2.10
1.10 1.90
0.87 1.37
0.75 1.85
0.69 1.75

Source: WWI (1990):State of the World (These are 1990 Values which must have increased).

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Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.


Table 3. Urban Waste Generated in Some Developed (Rich) Countries

Urban Waste Generated in Some Developed (Rich) Countries


Country
Annual Generation (In tones)
USA
20,00,00,000
Canada
1,26,00,000
Australia
1,00,00,000
Spain Netherlands
89,28,000 54,00,000
Belgium Sweden
30,82,000 25,00,000
Switzerland
21,46,000
Denmark
20,46,000
Norway New Zealand
17,00,000 15,28,000
Finland
12,00,000
Source: Dorling Kindersley Blueprint for Green Planet ;London (1987).

4.2. Waste Generated in the Poor Developing Countries of World


In the low and middle income developing countries of Asia, Asia-Pacific and Africa,
waste is a luxury, only produced by the wealthy minority which of course is increasing with
the growing economy and the exploding population. What is most concerning is that the
waste is not regularly collected by the municipal authorities and often becomes a horrible site
of piled and rotting waste on street corners with stray animals (dogs, pigs and cows) feeding
on the scraps. Domestic waste heaps often becomes sites of defacation and discharge of
human excreta and illegal dumping of hazardous wastes by scrupulous industries with
potential health threats. Municipal waste services often swallow between a fifth and a half of
city budgets, yet much solid waste is not removed. Even if municipal budgets are adequate for
collection, safe disposal of collected wastes often remains a problem. (Holmes, 1984).
Another ugly feature in these countries are that waste is often picked up by poor people
called rag-pickers for whom waste reuse and recycling is a way of life, and many poor
societies survive here by scouring the garbage of the rich for valuable scraps. They collect
recyclable wastes (mainly papers, plastics, glasses and metals) from the street corners and
even the dumpsites and sell them to the recycling industries to earn for their livelihood.
Table 4. Average Per Capita Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Generated by Some
Developing (Poor) Nations Country Waste Generation Per Day (in Kg)
Country
Pakistan
Indonesia
India
Nigeria

Waste Generation Per Day (in Kg)


0.25 0.60
0.33 0.55
0.15 0.51
0.16 0.46

Source:WWI (1990);State of the World (These are 1990 Values which must have increased).

Human Waste - A Potential Resource: Converting Trash into Treasure

117

4.3. Typical Waste Components in the MSW Generated in Both Rich


Developed and Poor Developing and Underdeveloped Nations
Several waste components have been identified in the municipal solid waste (MSW) of
both the rich and poor societies of world. It ranged from twelve (12) to fourteen (14) and a
considerable portion of this waste is Organic while others are Inorganic. Ironically, there
is relatively high amount of food waste in poor developing and underdeveloped nations as
compared to the rich developed nations. In contrast, there is high amount of paper and garden
wastes in rich nations and low in poor nations. However, very little (or none) food waste
finally reach the waste dump-sites in poor nations as they are scoured and scavenged by stray
animals pigs, dogs and cattle and even by the poor street beggars. Paper, cardboard, plastics,
leather, wood and metals also do not reach the dump-sites and are picked up by rag-pickers.
(WHO, 1976).
Table 5. Solid Waste Components in MSW of Low, Middle and High Income Countries
(In % age)
Waste Components
Organic
Food Waste
Paper
Cardboard
Plastics
Textiles
Rubber
Leather
Garden Wastes
Wood
Inorganic Glass
Tin cans
Aluminum
Other Metals
Dirt, Ash etc.

Low-Income

Middle-Income

High-Income

40 85
1 10
15
15
15
15
1 10
15
1 40

20 65
8 30
26
2 10
14
1 10
1 10
15
1 30

6 30
20 40
5 15
28
26
02
02
10 20
14
4 12
28
01
14
0 10

Source: Tchobanoglous et al, Integrated Solid Waste Management; McGraw-Hill (1995).


Low Income = Underdeveloped African, Asian and Pacific Nations;
Middle Income = Developing Asian, African, Pacific and South American Nations.
High Income = Developed European and North American Nations and Australia.

Table 6. Typical Solid Waste Components in the MSW of an European Society Waste
Components Percentage (%)
Waste Components
1. Paper and paper products
2. Metals
3. Glass
4. Plastics

Percentage (%)
Germany
19.9
8.7
11.6
6.1

Switzerland
26.6
5.6
11.5

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Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe et al.


Table 6 Continued

5. Textiles
6. Minerals
7. Wood, leather, bones, rubber
8. Compounded materials
9. Sieving fractions (0-12 mm)
10. Sieving fractions (12-50 mm)
11. Residue
12. Total unidentified fraction

1.5
2.9
2.3
0.8
8.6
15.6
26.8
51.0

2.8
1.1
3.1
0.7
9.2
8.1
27.1
44.4

Source: Tchobanoglous et al, Integrated Solid Waste Management; McGraw-Hill (1995).

Table 7. Typical Solid Waste Components in the MSW in U.S. Society (in % age)
Organic
1 Food Waste
2. Paper
3. Cardboard
4. Plastics
5. Textiles
6. Rubber
7. Leather
8. Yard waste

9.0
34.0
6.0
7.0
2.0
0.5
0.5
8.5

Inorganic
10. Glass
11. Tin cans
12. Aluminum
13. Other Metal
14. Dirt, Ash etc.

8.0
6.0
0.5
3.0
3.0

Total = 100.00

Source: Tchobanoglous et al, Integrated Solid Waste Management; McGraw-Hill (1995)

5. CHANGING CHARACTER OF THE MSW IN MODERN SOCIETY:


INCREASING AMOUNTS OF TOXIC MATERIALS
The character and composition of the municipal solid wastes (MSW) are changing in the
modern human society. Significant changes have occurred in the composition of municipal
solid waste (MSW) ever since the technological revolution of the 20th century. They are no
longer only organic waste, as it used to be in the earlier societies. The technological
development which mainly influenced the character of the MSW was the fossil fuel driven
industrial revolution and the agro-chemicals driven green revolution. Waste components
that have an important influence on the composition of the MSW are food waste, paper and
plastic wastes, the white goods and the hospital wastes. What is the matter of more serious
concern is that all living organisms including the human beings have become exposed to
chemicals for which there has been no evolutionary adaptation and experience. The chemicals
in the hazardous wastes mixed up with the MSW are completely foreign to living organism.
(Sinha and Sinha, 2000).

Human Waste - A Potential Resource: Converting Trash into Treasure

119

5.1. Changing Quality and Quantity of Food Wastes in the MSW


The quantity and quality of residential food waste has changed significantly over the
years as a result of technical advances in food growing (use of agro-chemicals) and food
processing and packaging (use of chemical preservatives), and public attitudes towards food
procurement i.e. relying more on processed and packed takeaway foods rather than cooking
food at home from raw materials. However, due to education and awareness about the
nutritive values of home cooked food, now people are moving back again towards home
cooking.
Two technological developments that have had a significant effect on generation of food
waste are the development of the food processing and packaging industries and the use of
kitchen food waste grinders in modern homes. Because of kitchen grinders the grinded food
wastes are delivered directly into the sewer systems rather than being disposed as MSW. In
these modern homes, the percentage of food wastes, by weight, has decreased from about 14
% in the early 1960s to about 9 % in 1992. In the packed and takeaway food culture, the
generation of food wastes in homes have reduced, but it has increased significantly in the
food processing industries and the food outlets. In homes, and the food outlets there are more
paper and plastic wastes due to over-packaging of processed foods, than food wastes itself.

5.2. Proliferating Plastic Wastes in the MSW


Percentage of plastics in MSW has also increased tremendously during the last 50 years.
The use of plastic has increased from almost non-measurable quantities in the 1940s to
between 7 - 8 %, by weight, in 1992. It is anticipated that the use of plastics will continue to
increase, but at a slower rate than during the past 25 years. (UNEP, 1996).

5.3. Escalating Electronics Waste in MSW: Heading for E-waste Tsunami?


Electronic waste is a growing concern as technology changes and new generations of
electronic products and equipments more sophisticated, improved and upgraded versions
continue to invade the market and the minds of consumers. The unfortunate part is that the
price of the new models and upgraded versions is continuously falling giving more temptation
to the consumers for discarding the old ones and replacing with the new.
The UNEP working group on Sustainable Product Design described the e-waste
essentially as a chemical waste. Electronics industry uses several hazardous chemicals
including toxic heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, barium etc.), acids and
plastics, chlorinated and brominated compounds in production process. Developers of
electronic products are introducing chemicals on a scale which is totally incompatible with
the scant knowledge of their environmental or biological characteristics. (O, Rourke, 2004).
More than 2 million tons of e-waste ends up in landfills every year and there is serious threat
of leaching lead (Pb) and other heavy metals that may seep into groundwater supplies.
Incineration results into emission of dangerous dioxins and furans as e-waste contain
considerable amounts of plastics, brominated and chlorinated compounds. (Sinha, et. al.,
2006).

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Recent study indicate that e-waste make up approximately 1 % of the MSW waste stream
in all developed nations and mercury (Hg) from the e-waste has been cited as the main source
of this heavy metal in the general MSW. E-waste in MSW is creating serious health and
environmental problems for the MSW landfills and the waste workers, and for the MSW
incinerators. In Europe the e-waste is growing at three times the rate of other MSW and
mixing with it. USA today is virtually sitting on a mountain of obsolete PCs. A report
produced by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (a grassroots coalition that performs research
and advocacy on health and environmental issues related to electronics industries in the U.S.)
in 2001 suggest that if all the consumers decided to throw out their obsolete computer at the
same time, the country would face a tsunami of e-waste scraps between 2006 and 2015. The
report called Poison PCs and Toxic TVs was released by another grassroots organization
California Against Waste (CAW). (Anonymous, 1999).

Developing Countries as the Electronic Junkyards of U.S. and Industrialized Nations :


An Untenable Choice Between Poverty and Poison
There are reports about Asia, mainly India, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore and
Pakistan, being made as the high-tech dumping ground of U.S. An estimated 20 million
computers become obsolete each year in the U.S. and an estimated 200 tons of these
computers end up in these countries in the name of reuse and recycling. Low labor cost
and weak environmental regulations have made these countries dumping grounds of e-waste
destined for recycling and final disposal in landfills. A pilot program that collected electronic
scrap in San Jose, California estimated that it was10 times cheaper to ship CRT monitors to
China than it was to recycle them in the U.S. It is still legal in the U.S., despite international
law (The Basel Convention, 1989) to the contrary, to allow export of hazardous waste without
controls. (It may be recalled that U.S. has not yet signed the Basel Convention (1989) which
prohibits trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes). Industry insiders indicate that
about 80 % of the e-waste goes to Asia and of that 90 % ends up in China. (Puckett et. al,
2002)
A report by Basel Action Network and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition Exporting
Harm: The Techno-Trashing of Asia asserts that 50 to 80 % of e-waste collected for
recycling in the U.S. is exported to developing nations. BAN produced a film on the report
which shows the Guiyu village in Guangdong province in China as electronics junkyard.
Some 100,000 men, women and children make US $1.50 a day dismantling e-waste by bare
hands to retrieve the valuable metals and materials. Circuit boards are melted over coal grills
to release valuable metals giving highly toxic dioxin fumes. Riverbank acid baths are used to
extract gold. Lead-containing cathode ray tubes from monitors and televisions are not of
much market value and hence are dumped in some wastelands. Toner cartridges are pulled
apart manually, sending clouds of toner dust into the air. Soil and drinking water at Guiyu are
contaminated by lead much above WHO limits- soil by 200 times and water by 2,400 times.
Water has to be trucked from 30 km away. At one point of time both China and India were
willing to take the e-waste for almost free. For poor countries of the world it is an untenable
choice between poverty and poison. (Puckett et. al, 2002)
In November, 2002 officials from eight Asian nations met in Tianjin, China, under the
auspices of Basel Convention (1989) to prevent their nations from being made the dumping
grounds of hazardous e-waste in the name of free trade (export and import) for recycling
discarded electronic products. It was represented by India, Malaysia, the Philippines,

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Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. Resource persons came from Canada, Japan,
the U.S. and the Secretariat of the Basel Convention. Financial support was provided by
Australia, Japan and Canada. China has now banned and India also follows. (Sinha, et. al.,
2006).

5.4. The White Goods and Bulky Items in MSW


There are bulky items which include large worn-out or broken household, commercial
or industrials goods such as furniture, lamps, bookcase, filing cabinets, etc. There are
consumer electronics wastes which include worn-out, broken, and no longer wanted items
like stereos, radios, computer and television sets. There are white goods as waste which
include worn-out and broken household, commercial and industrial appliances like stoves,
refrigerators, dishwashers, cloth washers and driers. The rejected auto-parts like tires,
batteries and accessories also constitute important constituents of MSW. About 230 to 240
million rubber tires are disposed off annually in landfills or in tire stockpiles. (UNEP, 1996).

5.5. The Biomedical Wastes in MSW


The biomedical waste from hospital and clinics and slaughterhouses contain about 85 %
as general refuse, but 10 % is hazardous wastes contaminated with infectious pathological
agents, and 5 % is non-infectious but potentially toxic (chemicals) and radioactive and hence
hazardous. Dressing and swabs contaminated with blood and body fluids; syringes, needles
and sharps; surgically removed placenta, tissues, tumors, organs or limbs are potentially
infected wastes from hospitals. There are several disposable items made of PVC and
thermocol now being used in medical organizations. Hospital wastes are of special category
and require special care for final disposal. WHO has provided strict guidelines for their safe
disposal. (WHO, 1976).

6. THE COMPLEX SYNTHETIC WASTES INVADING HUMAN


ENVIRONMENT
Human ingenuity has created some new and synthetic materials in the wake of
technological revolution. They contain both organic and inorganic chemicals and resins and
creates more complex type of waste after being discarded. Nature do not possess any
organism and mechanism to biodegrade them.
The processing of some new materials discovered by technology such as
semiconductors, optical fibers, new class of ceramics, and composites requires the use
of large amount of toxic chemicals which eventually ends up as hazardous wastes in the
MSW. These technological wastes are often toxic and are posing danger not only for the
environment, but also for the human health. It has already caused several accidents, deaths
and disabilities among the municipal waste workers.

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6.1. The Non-Biodegradable Wastes: Potential to Remain Long in Human


Ecosystem
The synthetic wastes are non-biodegradable because they cannot be decomposed and
can remain in the human ecosystem for years and decades polluting the environment.
Common examples are all forms of plastics, x-ray films, celluloid films, cells and batteries,
several chemicals and all synthetics.
What nature cannot do, human beings are trying to do through the knowledge of
environmental biotechnology. Genetically tailored bacteria are being created which would
possess the necessary enzymes to degrade the synthetic wastes. Some strains of bacteria and
fungi have been identified in nature too, which has the arsenal to degrade some of the
complex organic chemicals. Efforts are also being made to create biodegradable synthetics
using starch as the raw material. They can be degraded in 4-6 weeks. (Sinha and Sinha,
2007).

6.2. The Hazardous Wastes: Permeating the Human Society


Wastes containing toxic chemicals, radioactive substances and infectious materials which
poses potential risk to human health and environment are categorized as hazardous wastes.
Toxicity, radioactivity, flammability, chemical reactivity, corrosivity, nonbiodegradability, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, infectiousness, oxidizing and leachating are
some of the characteristics of hazardous wastes. (WHO, 1983).
Many primary and manufacturing industries using toxic chemicals generate hazardous
waste (solid or liquid) in the production process. They can be referred as industrial hazardous
wastes (IHW). Many of our favorite cultural activities depend on products the manufacture
of which creates industrial hazardous waste. Glaring examples are glass and metal, paper
and plastic, leather and textile, painting and dyeing, printing and publication and
photography and dry cleanings. Consumer industries today use a variety of chemicals to
produce consumer goods a number of which are now disposables. When these items are
consumed and discarded by society, they eventually end up as hazardous wastes in our
homes. This can be referred as household hazardous waste (HHW). Prime examples are
torch dry-cells and batteries, pesticides / disinfectant cans and bottles, fluorescent tubes and
electric bulbs, detergents and shampoos, lead-acid car batteries, auto tires and waste oils, and
the expired medicines.
As we enjoy the benefits of consumer goods (furniture and fixtures, white goods,
electrical and electronic goods, automobiles, processed and packed food and drinks etc.)
produced by consumer industries, we also generate considerable amount of hazardous wastes
as by-products when we discard them after use or change the old version with new. They
can be referred as consumer hazardous waste (CHW). Industries producing products that
sustain our modern life-style and living habits generate tremendous amount of hazardous
wastes. Glaring examples are the agro-chemical industries (to boost our food production)
and the petroleum industries (which drives our automobiles). (Raghupati, 1994; Sinha and
Herat, 2004).

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Household Hazardous Wastes (HHW): The Poison in Our Homes


Household hazardous wastes are either solids, semi-solids, or liquids. In addition trace
chemical compounds can exist as a solute within a liquid solvent, as a gas adsorbed onto a
solid, or as a component of the gaseous emissions from MSW.
Plastics contain organochlorine compounds, organic solvents in PVC; paints contain
heavy metals, pigments, solvents and organic residues; home pesticides contain
organochlorine and organophosphates compounds; oil and gasoline contain phenols and
organic compounds, heavy metals, salt acids, ammonia and caustics; textiles may have metal
dyes and organochlorine compounds; carpets can contain chemical stain resisters, pesticides,
solvent-heavy glues, VOCs laden underlayer; curtain treated with stain resisters and backing
can give off VOCs; dry-cleaned clothes give off VOCs; chip board and plywood furniture
releases formaldehyde; fibre-glass based insulation of ceiling cavity gives off VOCs; window
sealants give off toxic fumes; bathroom air fresheners release VOCs; and the carcinogenic
benzene can be formed in the garage from the car exhaust. Virtually all of the mercury in
MSW is due to the disposal of household dry cell batteries (mercury, alkaline, and carbonzinc types). A smaller amount of mercury may come from the disposal of broken home
thermometers. (Sinha, et. al., 2005 a)
Several toxic chemicals are commonly used today in modern homes that also results into
generation of HHW. They are usually mixed and disposed with the MSW. Some glaring
examples of toxic chemicals used in modern homes that contributes in the generation of
household hazardous wastes (HHW) are1) Perfumes and cosmetics used by the women contain some 884 neurotoxic chemical
compounds. (Report of National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in the
US).
2) Paper whitener is toxic. The chemical used in it has potential to kill.
3) Cadmium is present in food processing equipment, kitchenware enamels, pottery
glazes and plastics and relatively high levels in the sea foods.
4) Lead is present in paints and dyes, toys and newspapers, solder and batteries, lead
water pipe;
5) The highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are added to paints, copying and
printing paper inks, adhesive and plastics to improve their flexibility. Fish food
contain generally higher levels of PCBs. High levels of PCBs were reported from
the breakfast cereals in Sweden and Mexico as a result of contamination by
packaging materials.
6) Containers of paints and enamels used in homes and in automobiles. They contain
dangerous chemicals like glycol, ether, ammonia, benzene and formaldehyde and
continue to give out toxic fumes at least for 7 years.
7) Containers of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides are available in
modern homes to eradicate pests and insects in garden plants, cockroaches and
spiders in kitchens and storerooms.
8) Many relatively innocuous items, such as plastics, glossy magazines, and flashlight
batteries used in homes, contain metallic elements.
9) Metals like cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb) are present
in several household items. After combustion with MSW metals are either emitted as

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particulate matter or vaporized into air. Mercury pose a particular problem because it
volatilizes at a relatively low temperature, 675 F. (UNEP, 2004).

Very little is known about the amount of HHW generated in various countries. UNEP
(2006) reported that The Netherlands generate 41,000 tonnes of HHW every year. The
University of Arizona, US, made a survey and found that about 100 hazardous items
(containers) are discarded per household each year. Australian study made in Melbourne in
1990-92 also found 89,576 kg of hazardous wastes from households. (CSIRO, 1996).

Mercury in the MSW from Household Wastes Has the Potential to Kill : A Case Study
from U.S.
It is interesting to note that if the tons of household batteries generated in California is
calculated for whole of U.S., the total amount would be 160,000 tons per year. Given that a
typical household battery weighs 50 grams, the corresponding number of batteries is
2,910,000,000. It is estimated that more than 2,700,000,000 battery units were purchased in
the US in 1990. If half the household batteries were alkaline, and assuming that each battery
contained about 1200 mg of mercury (Hg), then, based on the data reported above, 1923 tons
of mercury (Hg) would enter the environment each year in California alone. This mercury is
enough to kill 8,730,000,000 people based on a lethal dose of 200 mg per person
(Tchobanoglous et. al., 1993).
Such situation exist in all metropolitan cities of world, in both developingand the
developed countries. Clearly, proper disposal of these household batteries in the MSW is an
important issues that must be addressed. If not collected separately, all these household
batteries get mixed up with MSW and is disposed in the ordinary sanitary landfills instead
of the secured landfills.
The Hazards of Disposable Baby Nappies in the MSW
More than 20 billion disposable baby nappies (equivalent to some 2.7 million tons of
solid waste) are ending up in the landfills every year the world over. They contain hazardous
chemical sodium polyacrylate (a super water absorbent) responsible for several medical
conditions in infants, including hampering of genital growth in male child. On an average
disposable nappies occupy landfill space of 0.40 m2 per child per year in Australia. They are 2
% by weight in total solid waste but occupy 3.5 % of total landfill space. They are also
disturbing the natural microbial biodegradation processes of organic wastes in the closed
landfills by absorbing all water internally. (Brahambhatt and Saeed, 2005).

6.3. The Nuclear Waste : Radioactive Substances Invading the Human


Environment
Nuclear wastes are the result of our urge to generate nuclear energy without emission of
greenhouse gases (which is in fact a myth as it requires 18 years of CO2 producing fossil fuel
energy (in uranium mining and enrichment, building reactors etc.) to produce one calories of
nuclear generated energy. (Report of Friends of Earth, 2000). Nuclear waste are produced
regardless of whether nuclear fission is controlled (such as for energy generation in reactors),

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or occurs explosively, as in the atom bomb. The resulting fission products, isotopes of
approximately 30 elements, have mass numbers in the range of 72 to 162, are for the most
parts solids, and emit beta particles, together with electromagnetic reaction (gamma rays)
which are exceedingly penetrating. The chemical separation of fission products and their
conversion to nuclear fuel are the most important sources of radioactive wastes. The
radioactive wastes can be in all the three forms solid, liquid and gaseous and two categories
of radioactive wastes are mostly encountered- the Low Level Radioactivity Waste (LLRW)
and the High Level Radioactive Wastes (HLRW). (IAEA, 1991).
Eight tons of liquid radioactive waste result per year from the typical average-size,
nuclear reactor. The nuclear reactors mostly generate HLRW in the form of plutonium-239
(Pu239). Other two most significant fission products are strontium-90 (Sr90) and cesium-137
(Cs137) with half-life of 19.9 and 33 years respectively. They are routinely emitted from the
reactors and continue to release radiation energy over long periods of time (several
generations of the human race). Even dismantling (decommissioning) of retiring nuclear
reactors produce enormous amount of radioactive wastes and contaminate vast land area.
There are 439 nuclear power reactors in operation around the world mostly in France and
Japan. They would all retire in years to come.
Uranium mining and processing (enrichment) produces huge amount of solid and liquid
radioactive wastes which is highly hazardous. The extraction of uranium from the earth crust
leaves vast quantities of wastes as tailings which contain up to 80% of the original
radioactivity of the extracted ore. After mining uranium is further enriched to produce
nuclear fuel. Depleted uranium hexafluoride (DU) is a radioactive waste by-product of
enrichment. For every 1000 tones of processed uranium fuel , 100,000 tones of mined wastes
as tailings and 3,500,000 liters of liquid waste is produced. They migrate into the
environment through air, soil and water. Processing of uranium ores produces considerable
volumes of alpha emitters, mainly radium-226. The half-life of Ra226 is 1600 years and gives
rise to a toxic gas radon. (IAEA, 1991).

7. WASTE : POTENTIAL SOURCE OF GREENHOUSE GASES


(METHANE AND NITROUS OXIDE)
So far, not much attention was paid towards this aspect of waste generation. Marked
increases in the amount of waste generated has also contributed to emission of greenhouse
gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides. A major issue of concern today is emission
of greenhouse gas methane (CH4) resulting from disposal of MSW in landfills and this may
be between 45 60 %. This is mainly due to anaerobic degradation of the organic waste
components in the landfills as oxygen becomes deficient due to compaction. Methane is 2025 times more powerful GHG than carbon dioxide (CO2) in absorbing the infrared solar
radiation.
Studies have also indicated high emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) in proportion to the
amount of food waste. N2O is mainly formed under moderate oxygen (O2) concentration.
(Yaowu et. al., 2000). Molecule to molecule N2O is 296 times more powerful GHG than
carbon dioxide (CO2). Yaowu et. al., (2000) has studied the emission of both methane and
nitrous oxides from aerated food waste composting.

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In fact, improved recycling of waste can significantly contribute to abatement of GHG


emissions. However, convention microbial composting (biological recycling) of organic
wastes also emits methane (Wang et, al., 1997) due to anaerobic sites appearing in the inner
layers of compost piles. However, it can be reduced significantly by improving aeration in
the waste biomass by periodical turning or through mechanical aerating systems. (Toms et.
al., 1995). Significantly, vermicomposting of waste by waste eater earthworms decrease the
proportion of anaerobic to aerobic decomposition, resulting in a significant decrease in
methane (CH4). Earthworms can play a good part in the strategy of greenhouse gas reduction
and mitigation in the disposal of global organic wastes. Currently we are studying the
potential of GHG emissions by various systems of biodegradation of wastes (Aerobic &
Anaerobic Composting & Vermicomposting by Earthworms). (Chauhan & Valani, 2008).

8. SAFE MANAGEMENT OF WASTE : A TECHNO-ECONOMIC


PROBLEM
Both rich developed and the poor developing nations of world have become conscious
towards safe waste management in the changing situation where the human waste is no longer
simple and organic to be salvaged by nature in course of time but getting more complex and
even hazardous, and threatening to remain in the human ecosystem for long time. Safe
management of all waste becomes imperative for the safety and security of the society and it
require the input of knowledge of diverse disciplines of material science, political science,
economics, geography, sociology, demography, urban planning, public and environmental
health, communication, conservation, and civil and mechanical engineering.
Waste management has been termed as Cradle- to- Grave management i.e. from point
of generation to final disposal, involving safe storage, transport and treatment- and in all these
steps, the generator owes the main responsibility. The collection and disposal of waste
involves huge expenditures in the development of landfills, waste collecting vehicles,
precious fuel (petrol and diesel) and labour costs.

8.1. The Natures Technology at Work: Salavaging the Organic Wastes


The organic wastes in the MSW are biodegradable and are decomposed in nature by
diverse microorganisms bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes and the protozoa. Among the
biodegradable wastes some are rapidly degraded while others are slowly degraded over
time. It may take time from few days to several months and years to degrade the organic
wastes, but it does happen ultimately. Some organic materials in the waste decomposes
rapidly (3 months to 5 years), while others slowly (up to 50 years or more). The relative ease
with which an organic waste is biodegraded (decomposed) depends on the genetic makeup
of the microorganisms present and the chemical makeup of the organic molecules (mainly
carbon structure that the organisms use as a source of energy and biodegrade in the process).
Carbons in sugars, lipids and proteins are easily decomposed than the carbon in lignin, while
the carbon in plastics are not at all biodegraded.

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The biodegradability depends to a large extent on the lignin content (present in wood
fibers) of the waste. Lesser the lignin content, rapid will be the biodegradation rate of that
organic material. Nature has those decomposer microorganisms (mainly bacteria and fungi)
in soil, air and water which perform the task. This is how the natural ecosystems on earth has
been operating since life evolved. Had there been no decomposer organisms, the earth would
have been full of animal and human excreta, animal carcasses and vegetable matters (leaves
and twigs) and dirt, and life impossible. The biodegradable waste include all plant, animal
and human products, the kitchen waste in every home and restaurants, wastes from the
agriculture farm, food processing industries, slaughter houses, fish and vegetable markets,
and paper and cotton wastes. All these wastes mainly contain organic matters.
The process of biodegradation (decomposition) in nature can be enhanced to several
times by introducing decomposer organisms such as the earthworms or even the bacterial
biomass directly into the waste biomass. This is being done these days to dispose the
mounting organic wastes rapidly. The process is called composting and the byproduct is
NKP rich biofertilizer.
Table 8. Rapidly and Slowly Biodegradable Organic Constituents in MSW
Rapidly Biodegradable
Food Waste
Newspaper
Office Paper
Cardboard
Yard Waste (Leaves and Grass Trimmings)

Slowly Biodegradable
Textiles
Rubber
Leather
Yard Waste (Woody portions)
Wood
Misc. Organics

Source: Tchobanoglous et al, Integrated Solid Waste Management; McGraw-Hill (1995).

Table 9. Biodegradability of Some Organic Components in the MSW


Component
Food Waste
Newspaper
Office Paper
Cardboard
Yard Waste

Lignin Contents (% of volatile solid)


0.4
21.9
0.4
12.9
4.1

Biodegradability (% of vs)
82
22
82
47
72

Source: Tchobanoglous et al, Integrated Solid Waste Management; McGraw-Hill (1995).

8.2. Sanitary Landfills - The Ultimate Graveyard for Wastes: An Economic


and Environmental Burden
Sanitary landfills constitute the ultimate graveyard for the safe burial of all human waste
in the womb of mother earth. There is an enormous range of materials found in landfills.
Todays landfill is tomorrows time capsule, writes Blatt (2005). Experience have shown
that modern landfills although made with great engineering skills are unable to contain the
toxic landfill gases and the leachate discharge into the environment. They are proving to

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be a techno-economic burden and a curse in disguise. The cost involved in landfill


construction is not only up-front, but also in its monitoring and maintenance, for controlling
landfill gases and the leachate collection etc., which is long term, often up to 30 to 50 years.
The up-front development costs for new landfills in U.S. varied from US $ 10 million to $ 20
million in 1992, before the first load of waste was placed in the landfill. This must have gone
up substantially by now. (Tchobanoglous, 1995).

Health and Environmental Concerns of Waste Landfills : The Uncontrolled Release of


Greenhouse and Toxic Gases into the Environment
Methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), oxygen
(O2) and nitrogen (N2) are the principal landfill gases. Methane and carbon dioxide are known
greenhouse gases and molecule to molecule methane (CH4) is 20 25 times more powerful
greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in absorbing the infrared solar radiation. Methane can
cause explosion when present in air in concentrations between 5 and 15 %. Ammonia (NH3),
hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are in trace amounts.
They are products of biochemical reactions occurring in the landfills. Landfill gases migrate
horizontally and migration distances greater than 300 m have been observed with 40 %
concentration.
Gas samples collected from over 66 landfills in UK showed the presence of 116 organic
compounds, many of which are classified as VOCs. (UNEP, 1996). VOCs are mostly evolved
from the newly placed MSW and specially which also contains hazardous wastes (HW). The
increasing quantities of household hazardous wastes(HHW) in the modern society and their
disposal along with the MSW, is posing a serious problem for the landfill engineers.
Table 9. Typical Hazardous Chemical Constituents Found in MSW Landfill Gases
Chemical Constituents
Methane
Carbon dioxide
Nitrogen
Oxygen
Sulfides, disulfides, mercaptans, etc.
Ammonia
Hydrogen
Carbon monoxide
Trace constituents (In VOCs)

% (By Dry Volume Basis)


45 60 (Greenhouse gas)
40 60 (Greenhouse gas)
25
0.1 1.0
0 1.0
0.1 1.0
0 0.2
0 0.2
0.01 0.6

Source: Tchobanoglous et al, Integrated Solid Waste Management; McGraw-Hill (1995).

Table 10. Concentrations of Toxic Trace Compounds Found in MSW Landfill Gases
Compound
Acetone
Benzene
Chlorobenzene
Chloroform

Mean Value in Parts Per Billion (ppb) by Volume


6, 838
2, 057
82
245

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Table 10.- Continued


Compound
1,1 Dichloroethane
Dichloromethane
1,1 Dichlorethene
Diethylene chloride
trans- 1,2-Dichloroethane
Ethylene dichloride
Ethyl benzene
Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK)
1,1,1-Trichloroethane
Trichloroethylene
Toluene
1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane
Tetrachloroethylene
Vinyl chloride
Styrenes
Vinyl acetate
Xylenes

Mean Value in Parts Per Billion (ppb) by Volume


2, 801
25, 694
130
2, 835
36
59
7, 334
3, 092
615
2, 079
34, 907
246
5, 244
3, 508
1,517
5,663
2,651

Source: Tchobanoglous et al, Integrated Solid Waste Management; McGraw-Hill (1995).

Some hazardous chemicals like vinyl chloride is going to the landfills by way of plastic
bags. Residents are throwing their kitchen wastes mostly packed in grocery plastic bags.
Earlier, there was also a practice to dispose some industrial solid wastes (ISW) with MSW
in the landfills, which have now been banned. However, to minimize the emission of VOCs, a
vacuum is applied and air is drawn through the completed portions of the landfill.
Trace gases although present in small amounts, can be toxic and pose grave risk to public
health and environment. Trace compounds may carry carcinogenic and teratogenic
compounds into the surrounding environment. Half-lives of various trace compounds in the
VOCs have been found to vary from fraction of a year to over a thousand years. (Heath,
1983).

The Uncontrolled Release of Leachate and the Threat of Contamination of Groundwater and Surface Water
The liquid (waste juice) that collects at the bottom of the landfill is known as leachate.
It is the result of percolation of precipitation, uncontrolled runoff, and irrigation water into the
landfill. Leachate can also include water initially contained in the waste as well as infiltrating
groundwater. Leachate seeps downward to the base of the landfill by gravity and poses a
potential health risk to public as it can percolate into the groundwater aquifer and contaminate
it. Concern is growing worldwide about wastes leaching heavy metals that may seep into
groundwater supplies. Leaching into soil and groundwater will occur regardless of whether
the landfill is sealed or not. It has become a common knowledge that all landfills leak. Even
the best state of the art landfills are not completely tight throughout their lifetimes and a
certain amount of chemicals and metal leaching will occur.

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Landfill leachate contains a variety of chemical constituents including heavy metals (Pb,
Cu, Ni, Cr, Zn, Cd, Fe, Mn, Hg, Ba, Ag), arsenic, cyanide, fluoride and selenium, and organic
acids derived from the solubilization of the materials deposited in the landfill and from the
products of chemical and biochemical reactions occurring in the landfills. (Tchobanoglous et,
al.,1995). Disposal of consumer electronics mixed with MSW accounts for 40 % of lead (Pb)
in the landfills. Mercury (Hg) will leach when circuit breakers are destroyed, PCBs will leach
when condensers are destroyed. When plastics with brominated flame-retardants or cadmium
containing plastics are landfilled, both PDBE and cadmium (Cd) may leach into the soil and
groundwater. (Miller, 2004).

8.3. Thermal Destruction (Incineration) of Waste


High temperature incineration of wastes especially the hazardous chemical and
biomedical wastes is considered to be the safest remedy to get rid of it. It enables
detoxification of all combustible carcinogens, mutagens and teratogens. Destruction is done
in stages. In the first stage the waste is thermally decomposed at 800 C in a refractory lined
chamber to produce ashes and volatiles. The ashes are removed and the volatiles with gases
are led to second stage where they are heated to around 1200C with additional air. It is the
only environmentally acceptable means of disposing some complex organic wastes like
chlorinated hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins. These chemicals
are persistant, non-biodegradable and highly toxic.
However, the conventional incinerators emit dangerous dioxins, furans and other
highly toxic pollutants when inorganic chemical dyes in plastics are incinerated. Dangerous
dioxins may also be formed if some organic materials are incinerated at too low temperatures.
But, the modern, well-regulated incinerators have dramatically reduced such toxic emissions.
It has been observed that injection of lime and activated carbon significantly remove the
dioxins and mercury from the gases by 95 %. However, people in most countries are
opposing incinerators and landfills in their neighborhood.

Plasma Arc Incineration System


High temperature incineration using plasma arc furnaces is a growing technology for
the management of hazardous chemical and biomedical wastes. In plasma arc system a
thermal plasma field is created by directing an electric current through a low-pressure gas
stream. Plasma fields can reach temperature from 5000 C to 15,000 C. This intense high
temperature zone can be used to dissociate the wastes into its atomic elements in the
combustion chamber. Heat generated from the plasma torch can melt and vitrify solid wastes.
Organic components can be vaporized and decomposed by the intense heat and ionised by the
air used as the plasma gas. Oxygen may also be added in the primary chamber to enhance
combustion. Metal-bearing solids are vitrified into a monolithic non-leachable mass.
(Hasselriss, 1995).
The system is hermetically sealed and operated below atmospheric pressure to prevent
leakage of process gases. Dioxin formation is prevented. The vented gas is held in the tank
and recycled into the furnace. The clean gases are released into the atmosphere through an
exhaust stack. The destruction and removal efficiency (DREs) of organic compounds are

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greater than 99.99 %. There is less public opposition to such incineration system. Plasma
technologys inherent ability to eliminate risks of future liabilities from waste disposal
through a single step treatment is an added advantage. A mobile plasma arc system would
also reduce or eliminate public health risks associated with the hazards of accidents or spills
resulting from the transportation of toxic or hazardous wastes by road or rail.
Plasma Arc Technology has proved to be an ideal and economically viable method to
successfully treat even the carcinogenic asbestos waste, the nuclear power plant wastes and
for safe disposal of arms and military waste worldwide. Temperatures in the order of 1,000
C are necessary to irreversibly transform asbestos into a non-hazardous material. Plasma
treatment transformed the asbestos waste into a harmless vitrified slag.
Japan has been using the plasma arc technology on large scale to vitrify its municipal
solid wastes (MSW) to reduce the volume of its MSW going to the landfills. Land starved
Japan cannot afford to have large number of landfills on its island. The slag produced by the
plasma arc pyrolysis is recycled into glassy bricks used as construction materials in buildings.
General cost of waste treatment by plasma arc technology range between US $ 400 and $
2,000 per ton, depending on the characteristics of the waste. PAT is however, a capital
intensive technology due to its initial equipment costs. A new plasma waste processing plant
can cost between US $ 3 million and $ 12 million depending on size, the hazardous nature of
the waste and the complexity of the treatment process. (Hasselriss, 1995).

Combining Incineration with Energy Generation : Killing two Birds in One Shot
Although waste incineration has been discredited worldwide particularly due to emission
of dioxins and furans, most European nations have waste incinerator plants combined with
energy recovery plants, and several categories of wastes (with high calorific value) including
the hazardous wastes are used as fuel to achieve the dual objectives of waste disposal and
electricity generation. The waste-to-energy movement started with the oil crisis in the
Middle East and the increased cost of oil in the 1970s. Denmark and Sweden are leaders.
They incinerate 65 % and 55 % of their MSW respectively and also produce thermal
electricity from steam generation. Of the 12 MSW incinerator plants in Netherlands, 5
generate thermal electricity. Some large German cities operate combined incinerator plants
providing up to 5 10 % of the total electricity demand. U.S. has few incinerators and
incinerates 16 % of its MSW currently, but recovers energy from almost 80 % of the plants.
The U.S. National Energy Strategy (1991), projected 7 fold increase in the electricity
generation from MSW incineration plants by 2010. Nearly three quarters of the Japans 1900
MSW incinerators, recover energy. (UNEP, 1996).

9. EMBRACING THE 5 RS PHILOSOPHY OF WASTE MANAGEMENT


THROUGH WASTE AND CONSUMER EDUCATION
As the generation of waste has increased in volume and also become more complex in
nature (due to mixing of non-biodegradable plastic wastes and household hazardous wastes)
traditional waste management systems have proved inadequate and inappropriate. Landfills
are not the lasting solution to the waste problem. Worldwide consensus is emerging to
discourage incineration and landfill disposal of wastes. In accordance with the EU Landfill

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Directive of 2001, the UK government is now phasing out the landfills for waste disposal.
Several U.S. states have banned landfill disposal of e-waste.

9.1. Waste and Consumer Education for the Wasteful Modern Society
Environmental education about consumption and waste is a kind of re-education of the
already educated but ignorant modern wasteful society. Waste generation involves the entire
population, so broad cooperation is necessary for sustainable and efficient waste
management. Partnerships are required between people and governments to deal with waste
collection and disposal. Waste and consumer education aims to raise public awareness about
the stresses on municipal councils and enable communities to understand their role and share
in the financial responsibilities needed for efficient management of solid wastes.
Educational programs must involve consciousness-raising on these fundamentals:

Waste is an inevitable by-product of all individual and social activities and is


proportionate to daily consumption.
Waste is a potential resource and every individual needs to commit to help recover
waste by reuse and recycling.
Waste generation can be minimized it can never be eliminated through
changing the patterns of production and consumption of goods and materials either
used most and/or that are used once then end up as waste.
Judicious consumption of food and the 5 Ps paper, plastic, power, petrol and
potable water can help minimize waste generation on a large scale.

However, there are series of issues that consumers have no control over and that require
government interventions at the level of production and distribution, involving manufacturers
and retailers.

The Consumer Power of Acceptance / Rejection Can Positively Influence Consumer


Industries Counteracting Vested Commercial Interest : India Showed the Way in 1940s
Consumer power can change things provided they are aware. By accepting or rejecting
consumer goods for sale, buyers can positively influence the production process, conveying
messages to industries and retailers to reduce waste at source both in quantity as well as in
quality (hazardous). Consumers can also influence government and industrialists policies to
manufacture goods that are durable, and also re-useable and recyclable after one use.
Consumer boycotts, which represent the kind of non-violence preached by the great Indian
saint, Mahatma Gandhi, back in the 1940s, counteract the vested commercial interest of
manufacturing industries promoted by media for commercial gain.
Consumer Education: Women Holds the Key
Consumerism is a growing human culture all over the world. Shopping is a key activity in
market based modern societies and grocery shopping for domestic consumption is done
mostly by women all over the world who are keenly aware of the various shelf products. They

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also observe the invasion of diverse consumer products in the market through media and
assess their values for family consumption.
However, buying less and narrowing choices are seen as infringements on peoples
rights. Individuals and householders who care about the environment can feel powerless.
Therefore policy makers, program coordinators, and educators need to address a series of
complex issues associated with educating about consumerism and waste generation.
A news poll survey conducted in mid-2005 found that five out of ten women compared
with three out of ten men were saying No to plastic bags and only two in ten women but
more than a third of the men surveyed preferred to use plastic bags rather than reusable ones
(Clean Up Australia 2006) ; (Also on <http://www.noplastics.org.au>).

International Efforts and Role of UNEP, WWF and WWI


The United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Wide Fund for Nature
Conservation (WWF) and the Washington based World Watch Institute (WWI) are playing
important roles in educating people at an international level, creating mass awareness about
waste problems as well as other environmental issues. UNEP sponsored the first Clean Up the
World Campaign, 17-19 September 1993. Several million people, from 79 countries, actively
participated in that campaign, which combined dual objectives, environmental sanitation and
resource generation. The campaign followed up on the first World Clean Up Movement in
Sydney, Australia, initiated by Australian yachtsman, Ian Kiernan, on 8 January 1986.
Kiernan gathered around 40,000 Sydney siders to collect more than 5000 tons of rubbish from
different parts of the city. The first Clean Up Australia Day, 1990, involved almost 300,000
volunteers.
Programs have been developed to influence consumers and to encourage them to rethink
about their patterns of consumption which can reduce waste. The Japanese Environmental
Agency (JEA) has launched a scheme called Household Eco-Account Books that
encourages the citizens to live sustainabily in an environmentally friendly manner and also
save money by consuming resources judiciously and by embracing the philosophy of 3 Rs
for waste reduction, reuse and recycling. In Norway NGOs run a program that builds
householders awareness on environmental impacts of consumer products, especially on its
contribution to piling municipal solid waste (MSW) and also the household hazardous wastes
(HHW) as several consumer products in modern homes may contain hazardous chemicals and
materials.

9.2. Educating about the Golden Rules of 5 Rs: Refusal, Reduction, Reuse,
Recycling and Responsible Behavior
People and policy makers need to embrace the 5 Rs environmental philosophy for
sustainable waste management. In the waste management hierarchy waste refusal and
reduction is the best option, waste reuse and recycling the better option than the waste
disposal in landfills. (Sinha et. al. 2005 c). It is imperative to educate the masses to 1. Refuse to accept articles and materials that generate / create more waste, especially
those that generate toxic and hazardous wastes;

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2. Reduce waste at source by consuming resources as little as possible and which is
enough to enjoy a minimum quality of life;
3. Reuse articles and materials several times and as much as practicable before
discarding them as waste and insist on buying durable, reusable and recyclable
articles and products and repair household goods before rejection as waste;
4. Recycle / recover / retrieve new materials / energy from discarded waste products
and assist the recycling industries by separating the recyclable waste from the nonrecyclables faithfully at source; and to behave with
5. Responsibility (for both consumer societies and producer industries) with regard to
judicious use of resources and reduction in waste generation in everyday activities.

If people (society) and producers (industries) embrace the 5 Rs golden rule majority of
the waste will be taken care of and very little will be left for treatment or to contain them
and finally to dispose them in landfills.
The environmental organization EcoRecycle of Victoria, Australia (2006) proposed a
waste management hierarchy which emphasizes that waste reduction / avoidance should
be the first option and disposal the last. Waste reuse and recycling comes after reduction. If
this management plan is sincerely implemented, there will be very little waste left to be
disposed finally. (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Source: EcoRecycle 2006.

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The Power of Refusal : It Can Prevent Misuse of Resources


In the 1980s, the Women Environmental Network (WEN) of the UK campaigned against
over-packaging of food products and refused to buy those products that were heavily wrapped
with plastics and papers. Women groups went into supermarkets, ripping off all the
unnecessary extra layers of paper and plastics and handed them back to the managers. WEN
has campaigned against several environmentally unfriendly consumer products such as paper
handkerchiefs and toilet rolls made from newly produced paper refusing to accept them.
(Belamy 1995).
Way back in the 1940s the great Indian philosopher and educator M.K. Gandhi, used this
power of refusal against the mighty British Empire (although in a different context) to
generate awareness among the masses.
Box 1. Responsibility of Consumers: Check Before Shopping and Refuse to Accept
Articles That Can Generate More Waste Upon Use
1.
2.

3.

Refuse to accept non-biodegradable plastic bags for grocery and other shopping
force manufacturers and retailers to offer environmentally friendly alternatives.
Refuse to accept any plastic or paper bag for small or just a few articles that you can
carry instead in your pockets or personal bags always carry easily tucked away
cloth or alternative bags for shopping.
Refuse to accept articles over-packed in plastic and paper, which have no eco-label
(are not produced through clean methods of production), and have the potential to
generate more waste when used.

The Wisdom of Waste Reduction / Prevention: It Conserves Material Resources


This is the best option in the waste management hierarchy. Preventing waste is like
preventing a social disease to occur. Waste reduction means conserving resources, that
otherwise constitute waste, with further economic and ecological benefits, including:
conserving valuable raw geo-chemical and biological resources, water and energy (fossil
fuels) used in the manufacture of products; saving money otherwise spent on constructing and
maintaining waste landfills; reducing health and environmental impacts of air, water and soil
pollution and global warming. Science and technology, the industry and the society all have
to play critical role towards waste reduction. If people judiciously use and reduce the
consumption of 5 Ps (paper, plastic, power, petrol and potable water) in daily life, it would
dramatically reduce all the three wastes- the solid, liquid and the gaseous from the
environment.
Society has to begin the process of reducing waste at source the home, office, or
factory- so that fewer materials will become part of the disposable solid wastes of a
community. Efforts must be made to reduce the quantity of materials used in both packaging
and obsolescent goods. Waste reduction may also occur at the household, commercial, or
industrial facility through selective and judicious buying and consuming patterns and the
reuse of products and materials. Source reduction is an option that will conserve resources
and also has economic viability.

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Technology Has Improved Efficiency of Resource Use and Reduced Waste Generation
by Consumers at Source
Technological advancement has undergone a process of dematerialization for reducing
the consumption of resources (metals, plastics, glasses etc.) in manufacturing products, with
consequent reduction in waste generation. Many packaging items (cans and bottles),
consumer electronic goods and even the automobiles have become lighter, slikker and
smaller. Since 1977, the popular 2-liter PET plastic soft drinks bottles have been reduced
from 68 grams each to 51 grams, a 25 % reduction in material used per bottle. One hundred
12 fluid ounce aluminum cans which weighed 4.5 pounds in 1972, only weighed 3.51 pounds
in 1992, a 22 % reduction in material use. Steel beverage cans have also been downsized and
are now 40 % lighter than they were in 1970. This means that people can still enjoy a good
quality of life while consuming smaller amounts of resources from the environment and
generating lesser amount of waste. Lesser resource use would also mean lesser energy
consumption and lesser waste generation, thus benefiting the environment in every way.
(WWI, 1991).
The Wisdom of Waste Reuse: It Extends the Life of Material Resources
There are several articles like bottles and jars made of glasses and tough plastic materials,
large tins, metallic cans and cansisters which can remain in our economy and ecosystem for
very long time (if not discarded as waste) just by simple cleaning and washing.
Box 2. Recipe and Responsibility of Consumers to Reduce and Re-use Waste in Daily
Life
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.

Buy in bulk and concentrates.


Buy durable not disposable products.
Buy products packed in reusable and refillable containers.
Chose products without or as little packaging as possible.
Take Your Own Bags, Box or Basket (TYOB). Insist on reusable cotton bags or durable
synthetic bags for grocery shopping; keep a few used shopping bags in your car.
Select paper bags/wrap only if needed and avoid plastic bags/wrap.
Reuse paper/envelopes only printed/photocopied on one side printed.
Use rechargeable batteries.
Use refillable ink fountain pens and biros.
Avoid using greeting/invitation cards.
Avoid wrapping, or sparsely wrap, presents etc.
Avoid paper napkins carry cotton handkerchiefs.
Save electronic copies of data or print and photocopy on both sides of paper.
Prepare meals at home (not take-away/convenience foods).
Avoid frequent use of canned, bottled, packed, processed and preserved foods and eat
raw, fresh foods (good for human and environmental health).
Avoid peeling fruits and vegetables to reduce kitchen wastes (and preserve nutrients for
digestion) and compost any food scraps and leftovers.
Carry food and edibles to school/workplace/friends place in reusable boxes.
Repair clothes and garments, toys, tools and appliances.
Go to garage sales rather than throwing away old things or buying new ones.
Use safe retreated car tyres.

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Box 3. Responsibility of Producers (Industries) to Reduce Waste


1.

2.

3.

Producers of consumer goods and products MUST embrace the philosophy and
principles of cleaner production, which emphasize producing more with less,
thus conserving resources and reducing waste.
Producers MUST embrace the ethical principle of producing durable, re-usable
and recyclable goods, which can remain in use for longer periods of time even
through changes in the purposes of their uses before being discarded.
Producers MUST inform consumers about the recycling potential of their products
and be committed to take back products after use for recycling, to recover
maximum useful materials from them to reduce the amount of final waste.

It do not involve any complex industrial processing, use of chemical and energy for their
reuse. They might have been originally made for some other use, but now can be reused for
different purpose- especially for storing and packaging. It should rather be termed as
resource reuse.

The Wisdom of Waste Recycling : Retrieving New Materials / Energy from Waste and
Conserving Virgin Raw Materials and Natural Resources
Waste recycling is a technological process to reuse waste materials involving physical,
chemical and biological processing to recover useful materials from them. It converts waste
into a resource, conserves primary and virgin raw materials from environment (geo-chemical
and bio-chemical natural resources), saves tremendous amount of water and energy and
protect the environment. Hidden environmental protection values of recycled goods, include
the energy and water saved, the pollution and deforestation prevented.
Government and Peoples Support is Paramount for Recycling to Succeed
Recycling combines social, economic, and ecological values. The opportunity to recycle
provided by local and state governments has seen an almost fourfold increase in the Victorian
recycling industry in Australia in the years 19932003 (EcoRecycle, 2006). EcoRecycle
estimates that re-processors have saved: water equivalent of filling 17,500 Olympic sized
swimming pools; greenhouse gas equivalent to that produced by 580,000 cars; and, enough
energy to power every household in Victoria (Australia) for 7 months (EcoRecycle, 2006).
Consumers can support recycling by buying goods which bear recycled stickers from
their manufacturers. People can indirectly support and promote recycling industries by
separating the recyclable from non-recyclable wastes and can directly participate by recycling
domestic, e.g. kitchen, wastes through composting. Policy makers could encourage or
regulate for all recycled goods to bear a tag recording the origin and life history of the goods,
i.e. identifying from which waste it was produced and how it has saved damage to the
environment. Such initiatives allow consumers to confidently reuse and recycle products. A
demand for recycled goods in society can be created by education.

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Box 4. Responsibilities of Consumers (Society) in Promoting Waste Recycling
1.

2.
3.

Separate recyclable wastes glass bottles and jars, aluminum and steel cans, plastic
bottles, milk cartons, paper, cardboard, magazines and phone books from other
household wastes faithfully for collection by councils or deliver them to recycling
centers / industries.
Buy recycled goods. This will encourage promotion of recycling efforts by the
government and industries.
In order to make recycling an effective strategy, people must understand more about
the qualities of materials in everyday items. For example, several vitreous materials
that look like, and shatter like, glass are not recyclable. Even a minute amount (such
as 5 grams per ton) of these vitreous materials found in some ceramic mugs and
plates, cups and crockery, mirror, broken drinking glasses, flower vases, light globes
and laboratory glass, can contaminate a load of recyclable glass and render it useless.

Box 5. Responsibilities of Producers (Consumer Industries) Towards Waste Recycling


1.

2.

3.

Producer industries MUST produce / manufacture consumer goods that are


potentially recyclable. 2. Producers should have a policy to take back their own
products to recycle them;
Producers should provide necessary information to its prospective buyers on the
matter of using, handling, conservation, disposal and recycling potentialities of its
products.
In designing new products, the industry must assess its potential and even suspected
adverse impact on its consumers health and the environment.

10. WASTE RECYCLING : A GROWING GLOBAL BUSINESS WHERE


WASTE (TRASH) IS TURNED INTO RESOURCE (TREASURE)
Waste is no longer considered as a discarded product to be disposed off from the human
ecosystem. Wastes are in fact now considered as a misplaced resource to be brought back
into the human ecosystem through the reuse and recycling technologies. Recycling means that
otherwise wasted items are returned back to the countrys economy to make either the same
product again, another product or other products. This saves cost on landfill disposal, save
landfill space, and prolongs the life of the primary resources used to make the product.
(Fairlie, 1992).
Recycling can involve mechanical / biological / chemical / thermal processing of waste
using some energy, water and chemicals to effectively and efficiently reconvert the waste into
secondary raw materials to manufacture new products or recover energy from them in the
form of fuel gas or heat. Several of the items of domestic, industrial (non-hazardous) and
commercial wastes viz. paper, leather, rubber, cotton rags, metals and glasses, wood and
plastics can be recycled in the material recovery and reprocessing industries to get valuable
new products.
Science and technology has provided a tool in the hands of mankind to renew all those
non-renewable resources on earth which otherwise cannot be renewed by natures

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mechanism. This would also save tremendous energy, preserve forest, prevent soil erosion
and pollution and above all arrest emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and reduce global
warming.
Some economies in the developed nations of Europe and America, and also in Australia,
is retrieving back 80 to 85 % of the materials from the waste as useful products for societal
consumption or to be reused in developmental activities and only less than 20 % are going to
the landfills for final disposal. (Goldoftas, 1989).

10.1. Global Trade and Exchange for Recycling


The old saying one persons trash is another persons treasure is becoming true as
waste trade and exchange between nations for recycling is entering into new era both
economically, ecologically and politically. Japan, Germany, France, Hong Kong, U.K., U.S.
and also Australia is recycling their wastes on large scales. Japan recycles 65 % of its MSW
into usable products and 40% of its waste paper into high quality paper.
A computerized waste exchange register has been prepared to link waste producers
with potential waste users and diverse waste items like discarded aluminum cans, paper and
card-boards, wooden crates and off-cuts, steel plate off-cuts, plastic products, saw dust, eggshells, caustic soda and chemicals have been listed in this register. The OECD countries have
established a central system for moving the non-hazardous recyclable wastes across
international borders under the rules of normal trade goods listed in the green list of Basle
Convention (1989). In these countries several C and F agents have come up with list of waste
available and waste wanted. The buyers benefit by the reduced cost of raw materials, while
the sellers benefit by the reduced cost of treatment and disposal of wastes.
Trade in waste between two countries is economically and politically justified if it is
based on ethics. Faced with rising cost of safe waste disposal and recycling at home, many
industrialized nations prefer to pass their hazardous wastes along with the recyclable wastes
on to the poor Third World countries where there are facilities, cheaper manpower and
infrastructure for waste recycling. This has happened greatly in case of hazardous electronics
wastes. U.S. has dumped huge pile of e-waste in China and India for recycling.

Trade-in Program for Recycling Electronic Waste


Recycling is a good option for the extremely old generation computers such as the PrePentium generation, or the computers (specially the monitors) which are broken. According to
the International Association of Electronics Recyclers (IAER) more than 1.5 billion pounds of
electronics equipment are recycled annually and is likely to grow by a factor of 4 or 5 by the
end of this decade. Eleven countries currently have mandatory electronics recovery laws on
the books. These are Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan,
Belgium, Taiwan, Portugal and South Korea. Some EU nations have very strong system for ewaste collection, such as the SWICO system in Switzerland and the Netherlands Association
for Disposal of Metalectro Products (NVMP). NVMP collect 80 % of e-waste. About 77 % of
TVs and 64 % of other small brown goods are recovered for reuse and recycling. (Cui and
Forssberg, 2003)
Most major computer manufacturers in world e.g. Dell, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Compaq,
Gateway have begun to address e-waste problems with their own end-of-life management

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programs which offers a combination of trade-in, take-back and recycling programs. Dell and
Gateway lease out their products thereby ensuring they get them back to further upgrade and
lease out again. Dell offers both reuse and recycling programs. Dell purchases it computers
for a nominal $15 fee. They will recycle both Dell and non-Dell computers, but for corporate
customers only. Dell Europe, however, recycles individual consumers computers. Gateway
provides $25-50 cash refund for new PC and donate the customers used computers. HP and
Compaqs trade-in program provides a refund cheque for the value of the used computer if it
is traded-in on the purchase of a new HP/Compaq computer. HP has been very active in
recycling programs. Since 1987, it has recycled over 500 million pounds of materials from the
e-waste and pledge to achieve 1 billion pounds by 2007. HP entered into a joint venture with
Micro Metallics in 1996 to recycle materials recovered internally and to recover parts from
products returned by customers and reported US $ 72.3 billion as revenue from the recycling
program. IBM accepts any type of PC (even other brands) but would charge $ 29.99 to take it
back. (Cui and Forssberg, 2003).

10.2. Economics of Recycling: Value Addition When Garbage Becomes Gold


Any waste has negative economic and environmental value and is a big techno-economic
problem for the local government and involves an economic and environmental cost in safe
disposal. But if the same waste is converted into an useful new material its economic and
environmental value goes to the positive. (Sinha, 1994).The Brisbane City Council in
Queensland, Australia process over 60,000 tones of recyclable materials every year and add $
20 million to their economy. (BCC, 2002).
What was the value of flyash before technology founds its use to reconvert it into
building material ? It was an environmental a hazard. What is the value of food scraps and the
human excreta ? It is a human waste to be safely disposed off every day and involves cost.
Composting technology can convert them into a high value end product i.e. compost (a
nutritive organic fertilizer for the farms). Biogas technology can now retrieve methane- a
clean burning fuel for power generation. (Sinha, 1994; Goldstein, 1995). Recycling also
reduces the cost of construction and siting of new landfills and closing it after use. It
reduces the economic and environmental cost of incineration of several categories of wastes.
Recycling economy is a closed loop in which consumers, manufacturers and waste
collectors and haulers, all have a critical sustaining role to play. Many waste articles in the
society are potentially recyclable, but they may not actually be recycled unless there is a
practical way to do so and there is a demand / market for the recycled goods. The waste
haulers would be encouraged to collect the recyclable wastes if there is a demand by the
recycling industries, and the recycling industries will buy these wastes (as secondary raw
materials for processing) only if it is less expensive (economically cheaper) than the primary
(virgin) raw material. The consumers will buy recycled items only if it is as good as the
product made from virgin materials and still less expensive. None of them are bothered about
the high environmental cost of the procurement of the primary raw materials from earth or
the products made from them.
When recycled materials have a high social and economic value despite the cost of
collecting and processing, they find a ready market. Much of the gold, silver and other
precious metals that were ever mined and extracted from their primary ores centuries ago is

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still circulating (recycling) in our economy (human ecosystem). Materials with low social and
economic value relative to the cost of collecting and processing do not find a ready market.
The grocery and kitchen wastes, agriculture, dairy and slaughter house wastes and the
sewage sludge, with greater organic contents can be biologically recycled to get fuel (biogas)
and fertilizer (compost). Even the human hair which are protein materials can be recycled
for getting amino acids and making newer and cheaper proteins. It is like getting gold from
the garbage and silver from the sewage.
Recycling of hazardous industrial wastes also minimizes the cost and risk of transporting,
storing, treating and disposing of hazardous wastes to distant places. US and Japan recycles a
great part of its hazardous wastes. Several recyclable hazardous wastes are exchanged
among nations under strict rules of Basel Convention (1989). The recycling potential of
wastes from the pharmaceutical industries is 95 %, paints and allied products 40 %, organic
chemicals 25 %, petroleum refinery 10 % and small industrial machinery 20 %. Used and
discarded products from the automobiles e.g. the lead-acid batteries (LABs), the waste oil and
the auto tires are also recycled.
In some cases the waste may have to undergo some modifications, such as dewatering,
in order to become recyclable and salable product. An aluminum die-casting firm developed a
market for a by-product of their production process- the fumed amorphous silica. After
much researches into uses for the product it was found to be a valuable additive to concrete.
The firm marketed the waste and now sells all the fumed amorphous silica it generates to
cement plants. This is bringing an income of US $ 1 million every year for the company and
also saves the enormous cost of disposal. (Noll et. al., 1985).
An x-ray film manufacturer in U.S. generates a salable waste product. The company
installed equipment that flakes and bales waste polyester coated film stock which is sold as
raw material input to another firm. Over 9 million kg of film stock is exchanged each year.
This saves US $ 200,000 annually which would have incurred in collection, transport, and
disposal cost. Above that, there is annual profit of US $ 150,000 to the x-ray film
manufacturing firm from the sale of the recyclable materials. (Noll et. al., 1985).

10.3. The Environmental Significance of Recycling


Nature possess tremendous capacity of recycling of several categories of wastes by
biodegradation (biological recycling) aided by the decomposer organisms on earth. The
earth provides all the necessary resources for development of mankind and also assimilate
all the wastes generated by them in the process of those developmental activities. This is
defined as the carrying capacity of Earth. Unfortunately, due to the growing consumerism of
resources and the consequent increase in the quantity and concentration of human wastes on
earth, this carrying capacity is threatened to be jeopardized with dangerous consequences for
the global ecological balance and grave risk of poisoning of the life support systems on earth.
The addition of non-biodegradable technological wastes has aggravated the problem. They
can remain in the human environment for centuries as nature has not evolved the mechanism
to degrade and recycle these new man-made materials.

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Table 10. Environmental Benefits of Recycling of Papers, Metals and Glasses

Waste
Recyled
1. Iron & Steel Scraps
2. Aluminum Cans
3. Papers Wastes
4. Glass Wastes

Energy
Savings
60-70 %
90-95 %
60-65 %
30-32 %

Pollution
Control

Reduction in
Solid Waste

Water
Savings

Forest
Protection

30 %
95 %
95 %
20 %

95 %
100 %
100 %
60 %

40 %
46 %
58 %
50 %

100 %
100 %
100 %
-

Source: WWI (1984) State of the World.

By resorting to recycling technologies we can actually renew and sustain the natural
carrying capacity of earth ecosystems and not only the natural human wastes can be
reconverted into a resource, but also the man-made synthetic and hazardous wastes.
Recycling of some municipal and industrial wastes such as papers, metals, glasses can accrue
several environmental benefits by way of water and energy saving (consequent reduction of
greenhouse gas emission), control of air pollution and forest protection.

Figure 2. Explaining the Economic and Environmental Significance of Recycling.

10.4. Need for Appropriate Recycling Technologies


Several municipal as well as industrial solid wastes have potential to be recycled. They
only need appropriate technologies for recycling. New recycling techniques are being
developed constantly to maximize recovery of useful materials and minimize the amount of
waste going to the landfills. Essentially two types of recycling technologies are being
developed for waste processing to get valuable end products mechanical and biological.
Mechanical technology involves thermal and chemical processing of waste (both organic and
inorganic fractions), while biological technology involves biological processing of waste

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143

(organic fraction only) by microbes and earthworms. While mechanical technologies incur
expenditure of energy, the biological technologies may generate energy.

10.5. Biological Recycling of Wet Organic Wastes into Fertilizer and Fuel:
Diverting the Major Part (70- 80 %) of MSW from Landfills
Biological recycling involves processing of wet and dry organics such as the food waste
from homes and commercial institutions, green garden and farm wastes, cattle and farmyard
wastes and the waste organics from the food processing industries). The traditional
composting methods are essentially a biological recycling technology which is being revived
and improved with new knowledge in microbiology and environmental biotechnology. Other
biological recycling methods developed are technology to retrieve biogas and bio-alcohol
(cleaner energy sources) from organic wastes.
MSW contain 70-80 % by weight of organic materials and the waste biomass is rich in
carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) with other valuable minerals like phosphorus (P) and potassium
(K) and have potential to be biologically recycled to recover fertilizer and fuel (energy).
However, waste with high organic components should preferably be recycled to produce
fertilizers (composts) and not fuel. (White, 1996).
Table 11. Useful Materials Recovered from Waste by Recycling Technologies
Recyclable Materials from MSW

Useful Materials Recovered / Typical Uses

WET RECYCLABLES
Organic Fraction of MSW (70-80 %)
Food waste, yard & garden waste etc.

Recovery of fertilizer (compost) and


fuel (methane and ethanol) ;

DRY RECYCLABLES
Paper
Old Newspaper
Corrugated Cardboard
High-grade Paper
Plastics
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
High-density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Low-density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Polypropylene (PP)

Polystyrene (PS)

Newsstand and home-delivered newspaper


Bulk packaging, fiberboard & roofing material
Computer paper, white ledger paper
Soft drink bottles, salad dressing and vegetable oil
Bottles; photographic film
Milk jugs, water containers, detergent and cooking
oil bottles.
Home landscaping, irrigation pipes, some food
packaging, and bottles
Thin-film packaging and wraps; dry cleaning film
bags; other film material
Closures and labels for bottles and containers,
battery casings, bread and cheese wraps, cereal
box liners
Packaging for electronic and electrical component,

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Table 11 Continued

Multilayer and other mixed plastics


Glass
Metals
Ferrous Metals (Iron & Steel)
Non-ferrous Metals
Textiles
Construction & Demolition Wastes

foam cups, fast-food containers, tableware and


microwave plates;
Packaging, ketchup and mustard bottles
Clear, green and brown glass bottles & containers;
Tin cans, white goods, reinforcing bars
Aluminum cans, copper and lead products
Wiping rags
Soil, asphalt, concrete, wood, drywall, shingles

HAZARDOUS WASTES
Auto Tires
Household Batteries
Automobile Batteries
Incinerator Residues
Engine Oil and Lubricants

Road building materials, paving and tire-derived


fuel;
Recovery of zinc, mercury and silver
Recovery of acid, plastic and lead
Concrete, road construction material
Refined Oil

Fertilizer Production : Retrieving Nutrients from Organic Wastes


i) Compost from Waste (Getting Gold from Garbage)
There is always greater economic as well as ecological wisdom in converting as much
waste into compost (a nutritive fertilizer for farms), so that less and less waste (the noncompostable and non-recyclable residues) finally go to the landfills. The organic fraction of
MSW (70-80 %) is rich in nitrogen, potash and phosphorus (NKP) and all macro and
micronutrients. This can be easily recycled through microbial biodegradation process called
composting, to retrieve the nutrients from them. If residents all over the world, practice home
composting and backyard composting of their kitchen and garden wastes, this will
significantly reduce burden on the councils and very little MSW will be left for the landfills.
Even councils should practice composting of waste on commercial scale instead of sending
them to the landfills, earn money by selling them to the farmers, rather than spending money
on their landfill disposal.
The components that constitute the organic fraction of MSW are food wastes, paper,
cardboard, plastics, textiles, rubber, leather, yard wastes, and wood. Yard waste may contain
even higher percentage of organic matter. All of these waste materials can be recycled, either
separately or as a commingled waste. Certain industrial wastes such as those from the food
processing, agricultural and paper-pulp industries are mostly organic in composition and
can also be composted. Controlling the environmental conditions i.e. the biological, physical
and the chemical factors can significantly improve and enhance the composting process
without the emission of foul odor and pollution of the environment and without the loss of
essential nutrients from the compost. (Epstein, 1997).
The conventional composting technology has now been significantly improved with our
modern scientific knowledge in microbiology and biotechnology to biodegrade all kinds
of organic wastes including the municipal solid wastes (MSW)containing sufficient organic
components under a completely controlled environmental conditions. We have innovated

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145

some new, cost-effective and more efficient methods of converting organic waste into
compost which besides providing the macro and micronutrients also provide beneficial soil
microorganisms to the soil and work as soil conditioner to prevent soil erosion. (Haug,
1993; Epstein, 1997).
The relative ease with which an organic material is biodegraded (composted) depends on
the genetic makeup of the microorganisms present and the chemical makeup of the
organic molecules. Carbons in sugars, lipids and proteins are easily decomposed than the
carbon in lignin. A small portion of the carbon is converted to new microbial cells, while a
significant portion is converted to carbon dioxide and lost to the atmosphere. The new cells
that are produced become part of the active biomass (decomposer microbes), to further
enhance and multiply the biodegradation and composting process and on death ultimately
become part of the compost.
European cities and societies are developing and adopting ambitious technologies for
recycling and composting of wastes to divert them from landfills. Some cities have installed
sophisticated equipments for composting and resource recovery. Austrian, French and Swiss
cities have taken the lead in installing waste recycling and composting systems. Twenty seven
(27) composting plants with a combined annual capacity of 60,000 tones of compost from
city trashes are currently under construction in German towns and cities (UNEP, 2004).

Vermicomposting: Using Waste Eater Earthworms for Rapid and Odorless Composting
of Municipal and Industrial Organic Wastes
Vermicomposting is rapid and odorless process triggered by earthworms through
enzymatic breakdown of waste organics and also enhancing the microbial degradation by
proliferating the microbial population in the waste biomass. Vermicompost is completely free
of pathogens but rich in beneficial decomposer microbes including nitrogen fixing bacteria,
mycorrhizal fungi and actinomycetes. It is rich in NKP, trace elements, enzymes, growth
promoting hormones (gibberlins and auxins) and readily works as soil conditioner.
Long-term researches into vermiculture have indicated that the Tiger Worm (Elsenia
fetida), Red Tiger Worm (E. andrei), the Indian Blue Worm (Perionyx excavatus),the African
Night Crawler (Eudrilus euginae),and the Red Worm (Lumbricus rubellus) are best suited for
vermi-composting of variety of organic wastes including some of the hazardous wastes like
the sewage sludge (biosolids) from the sewage treatment plants and the fly-ash from the
coal power plants.
Vermiculture was started in the middle of 20th century for management of municipal /
industrial organic wastes in Holland in 1970, and subsequently in England, and Canada. Later
vermiculture were followed in USA, Italy, Philippines, Thailand, China, Korea, Japan, Brazil,
France, Australia and Israel. However, the farmers all over the world have been using worms
for composting their farm waste and improving farm soil fertility since long time. In UK,
large 1000 mt vermi-composting plants have been erected in Wales. The American
Earthworm Technology Company started a 'vermi-composting farm' in 1978-79 with 500 t
/month of vermicompost production. Japan imported 3000 mt of earthworms from the USA
during the period 1985-87 for cellulose waste degradation. The Aoka Sangyo Co. Ltd., has
three 1000 t /month plants processing waste from paper pulp and the food industry. This
produces 400 ton of vermicompost and 10 ton of live earthworms per month.
The Toyhira Seiden Kogyo Co. of Japan is using rice straw, municipal sludge, sawdust
and paper waste for vermicomposting involving 20 plants which in total produces 2-3

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thousands tons of vermicompost per month. In Italy, vermiculture is used to biodegrade


municipal and paper mill sludge. Aerobic and anaerobic sludge are mixed and aerated for
more than 15 days and in 5000 cum of sludge 5 kg of earthworms are added. In about 8
months the hazardous sludge is converted into nutritive vermicompost. In France, 20 tons of
mixed household wastes are being vermi-composted everyday using 1000 to 2000 million red
tiger worms (Elsenia andrei) in earthworm tanks. Rideau Regional Hospital in Ontario,
Canada, vermi-compost 375 - 400 kg of wet organics mainly food waste everyday. In Wilson,
North Carolina, U.S., more than 5 tons of pig manure (excreta) is being vermi-composted
every week. (Edward, 1998; Frederickson, 2000; Fraser-Quick, 2002; Sinha et. al., 2005 b).

ii) Fertilizer Pellets from Sludge Cake (Getting Silver from Sewage)
A technology has been developed in U.S. by Massachusetts Water Resources Authority
to recycle the dewatered sewage sludge into fertilizer pellets. The sludge is shipped from
sewage treatment plant and pumped directly from barges into the storage tank and then
transferred to belt-filter press where water is mechanically squeezed out. The sludge cake is
moved through the conveyer belts to rotating heat dryers and heated to convert into small
hard pellets. This also destroys the foul smell and harmful bacteria. The pellets are low-grade
fertilizers, but if blended with other synthetic nutrients can form a complete fertilizer. Cities
all over the US is operating sludge processing plant like MWRA.
Fuel Production : Retrieving Cleaner Sources of Energy from Organic Waste
The organic municipal solid wastes enriched with biomass and materials with high
calorific value (combustible) can be recycled to yield either gaseous fuel methane (biogas)
or liquid fuel ethanol by fermentation. The wastes can be directly incinerated and the heat
liberated is used for steam generation and electricity production. The new idea is to use the
wastes a source of fuel in cement kilns in cement industries to replace the costly fossil fuels.
The emission problems accompanying incineration is also minimized to a great extent. But
only wastes with high calorific value is useful for energy recovery. (Parker and Roberts,
1985; Porter and Roberts, 1985).
i) Biogas
There is always greater ecological wisdom in generating biofuel (biogas and
bioethanol) from the MSW rather than generating thermal energy from them by combustion
technology, with accompanying release of toxic gases especially dioxins and residual
ashes which needs landfill disposal.
The biogas technology by the use of anaerobic metanobacteria utilizes the organic
wastes rich in cellulosic materials with high carbon and nitrogen (C/N) ratio. It produces both
fuel and fertilizer. Each ton of organic waste by dry weight yields about 36 cum of biogas and
350 kg of biomanure. Methane is a clean burning substance and on combustion yields 550
BTU of heat per cft of its volume. Even the sewage sludge rich in organic matter and high
C/N ratio is efficiently recycled to yield methane.
ii) Bio-diesel
Bio-diesel is emerging as an alternative cleaner fuel for diesel engines brewed from waste
organic feed-stocks, such as animals waste fats (tallows), lard and waste cooking oils. This is

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147

being produced in Australia and other countries on commercial scales. Bio-diesel is also
being produced from offal at a turkey-processing plant in the U.S. Any vegetable oil can form
the feedstock to produce bio-diesel. It can produced by recycling the waste oil from fast-food
restaurants and the deep friers of French fries which generate huge amount of waste vegetable
oils.It can now be produced from household waste and used auto tires.
Bio-diesel is completely non-toxic and biodegradable, almost free of sulfur and
aromatics, and have lower CO2 emissions than the mineral oil derived diesel. It can be used in
existing fuel engines without any modifications. The emissions from bio-diesel are 100 %
lower in sulfur, 96 % lower in total hydrocarbons (HC), 80 % lower in polycyclic
hydrocarbon (PAH), 45 % lower in carbon monoxide (CO) and 28 % lower in suspended
particulate matters (SPM). (UNEP, 2006).

iii) Bio-alcohol (Ethanol)


Waste biomass rich in starch and cellulosic materials provides good raw material for
ethanol production by enzymatic fermentation carried out by organisms yeast and some
bacteria. Bagasse, the waste from sugarcane industry is most appropriate raw material. 6000
kg of bagasse upon fermentation yields 1000 litres of ethanol of 95 % strength. It is a cleaner
auto-fuel and Brazil is already using it as an auto-fuel since 1975.
New bioconversion technologies could open the gate to the cost-effective use of a wide
variety of feed-stocks including agricultural waste products like corn stalks, rice and wheat
straws and perennial grasses to produce bio-fuel ethanol
iv) Coal Briquetts
Technology to recycle the agricultural wastes into a non-polluting fuel has been
developed. The dried biomass is crushed and pre-heated to a temperature of 100-120 C and
then compacted.
v) Fuel Pellets
A technology has been developed for converting garbage into non-polluting fuel pellets.
The garbage is first shredded and blown dry in rotary kiln. It is then blended with combustible
wastes like saw dust and is then pelletized. The pellets have calorific value around 4,000 kcal
/kg and there is no harmful emission upon combustion.

10.6. Mechanical Recycling of Dry Recyclables into Original or New


Products
Mechanical recycling involves processing of dry organic and inorganic recyclables such
as papers and cardboards, plastic cans and bottles, metal cans, glass jars and bottles.
Mechanical methods include thermal and chemical processing of waste materials and also
consumes considerable amounts of water and energy. Now new mechanical technologies is
being developed to recycle even hazardous industrial wastes.
Metals, glasses, papers and plastics, wood and rubbers are some common domestic and
commercial wastes which have high recycling potential to recover goods of mass
consumption through mechanical technologies. (WWI, 1984).

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Recycling Potential of Metallic Wastes


Iron, aluminum, lead, tin and copper are metals of mass consumption by the society.
Their production from their virgin ores by mining activities requires huge amount of energy
and water and also cause blatant environmental pollution, solid waste generation (as tailings)
and deforestation. Metals like iron and aluminum can be effectively recycled for ever with
least impact on environment while conserving huge amount of energy. (AEN, 2000).
a) Ferrous Metals (Iron and Steel)
The ferrous scraps include autos, household appliances, equipment, bridges, cans and
other iron and steel products. The largest amount of recycled steel has traditionally come
from large items like road unworthy cars and appliances. It can be reclaimed from the
automobile bodies and engines, disused household or industrial equipment and building
materials. The shipyards, railyards and the automobile junkyards offer vast amount of waste
metallic products to be recycled. They can alone meet more than 50 % of the worlds metal
requirements. Marine ship break is a continuous process throughout the world as the ships
lose sea worthiness in 25 to 30 years.
Recycling of steel cans is also becoming very popular. They can easily be separated from
the mixed recyclables or MSW using large magnets. To protect them from corrosion, all steel
cans are coated with a thin layer of tin that must be removed in the recycling process.
Immersing the sheets of steel in alkaline bath and transmitting an electric current completes
the detinning process.
Iron and steel has high recycling potential and can be recycled again and again without
reducing the quality of the end products. Nearly half of the iron and steel which has already
entered into the human ecosystem is now being used through recycling. World steel
production alone consumes as much energy annually as Saudi Arabia produces. Making steel
from recycled materials uses only a quarter of the energy needed to make steel from iron ores.
(AEN, 2000). Iron scraps costs little more than iron ore but can be converted into steel with
much lower economic and environmental cost. Using coke for iron ore reduction produce
copious particulate matters including carcinogenic benzopyrene. Recycling of iron reduces
this emission by 11 kg/metric tons of steel produced and also cuts iron ore waste and coal
mining wastes by 1100 kg/metric tons recycled. Iron and steel scraps are baled into bricks at
the material recycling facility (MRF) and melted at 1700 C in the smelters to produce ingots.
b) Non-ferrous Metals
Non-ferrous scrap metals include aluminum, copper, lead, tin, and precious metals.
Recyclable nonferrous metals are recovered from common household items (outdoor
furniture, kitchen cookware and appliances, aluminum cans, ladders, tools, hardware); from
construction and demolition projects (copper wire, pipe and plumbing supplies, light fixtures,
aluminum siding, gutters and downspouts, doors, windows); and from large consumer,
commercial and industrial products (appliances, automobiles, boats, trucks, aircraft,
machinery)
Aluminum: It has high recycling potential. The amount of aluminum which has already
entered into the human ecosystem is sufficient to cater the needs of the society through
recycling and there is no need to process it from the virgin ores. Aluminum cans are baled
into bricks and melted at 700 C in rotary furnaces. The molten aluminum is cast into ingots

Human Waste - A Potential Resource: Converting Trash into Treasure

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and remade into cans or processed into other aluminum products like saucepans and homewares.
Copper: It can be recycled from the boilers of hot water systems, old car radiators and
copper pipes. Electric cabling and wiring contains copper and aluminum which can be
recycled.
Lead: Lead can be recycled from old car batteries and old lead pipes. Lead is recycled in
high rate because it is highly toxic and processing from its ore is highly damaging to both
man and environment.
Silver can also be recovered from silver-plating industries through recycling. A silverplating plant in the US spends about US $ 120,000 a year on waste treatment, of which US $
60,000 is returned as credit for silver recovered from the waste. Silver and even gold is
recovered from electrical industries.
Table 12. Metal Consumption Procured through Recycling in USA
(1). Lead
(4). Aluminum
(7). Tungsten

73 %
45 %
29 %

(2). Copper 60 %
(5). Zinc
43 %
(8). Nickel 26 %

( 3). Iron & Steel


(6.) Tin
(9). Chromium

56 %
38 %
21 %

Source : WWI, Washington D.C. State of the World (1989).

Environmental and Economic Benefits of Recycling Metallic Wastes


World steel production alone consumes as much energy annually as Saudi Arabia
produces. Making steel from recycled materials uses only a quarter of the energy needed to
make steel from iron ores. Iron scraps costs little more than iron ore but can be converted into
steel with much lower economic and environmental cost. Using coke for iron ore reduction
produce copious particulate matters including carcinogenic benzopyrene. Recycling of iron
reduces this emission by 11 kg/metric tons of steel produced and also cuts iron ore waste and
coal mining wastes by 1100 kg/metric tons recycled.
Recycling aluminum uses only 5 % of the energy needed to produce new aluminum from
its ore bauxite. Recycling one aluminum beverage can, saves energy enough to run TV for 3
hours. The energy needed to make 1 ton of virgin aluminum from bauxite could be sufficient
to recycle 20 tons of aluminum from its scrap. It takes about 4 tons of bauxite to produce 1
ton of finished aluminum. Recycling aluminum reduces air pollution including the toxic
fluoride by 95 %, and cut millions of tones of greenhouse gases (mainly CO2). (AEN,
2000).
Recycling Potential of Paper and Cardboard Wastes
About 30 % of the paper products which we use today are made from recycled papers and
cardboards. Three common grades of paper recycled are corrugated cardboard, high grade
office paper and old newsprint. Waste papers and card boards make excellent pulp for making
different grades of paper to be used for stationary, magazine and newspapers, game boards,
ticket stubbs, cereal and cake mix boxes, grocery bags, tissue papers, paper towels, egg boxes,
cards and packaging materials. If cotton rags are mixed with them they make excellent pulp
for making other kinds of papers too. Office papers are recycled to manufacture computer
papers, writing and printing papers.

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However, infinite recycling of paper is not possible because the fibers become shorter
and shorter and the quality of papers declines. Also the tissue papers and the wax coated
papers cannot be recycled. The printed papers also need to be de-inked before recycling as it
may contaminate the entire fibre stock.

Environmental and Economic Benefits of Recycling Paper Wastes


Recycling of waste papers saves green trees, large amount of energy and water and
prevent the use of chemicals. Recycling 1 ton of waste paper saves 13 trees, 2.5 barrels of oil,
4100 kWh of electricity and 31,780 litres of water. About 64 % less energy and 58 % less
water is needed to make papers from recycled fibers than to make from virgin pulp obtained
from the plants. Recycling half of the papers used in the world today would meet almost 75 %
of the demand for the new paper and would liberate 8 mha of forest from clear-felling for
plantation for paper production. According to one estimate the energy required to produce one
ton of paper from the virgin wood pulp is 16, 320 kWh, while only 6000 kWh is needed to
obtain the same amount of paper through recycling from paper waste. Reduction in energy
use (oil or electricity generated from fossil fuels) proportionately reduce the emissions of
greenhouse gas CO2 and other pollutants which would have occurred otherwise. (UNEP,
2004).
Recycling of Paper Industry Waste
All paper mills recycle and recover their intermediate and untreated effluents called
white water (water passing through a wire screen upon which paper is formed) and thus
reduces the volume of spray and wash water it uses. Other wastes like sulfite waste-liquor
by-product have been found to have multiple uses. Their complete evaporation produces fuel
and other salable by-product used in making core binder, road-binder, road bank stabilizer,
cattle fodder, fertilizer, insecticides and fungicides, linoleum cement, ceramic hardener,
insulating compounds, boiler-water additives, flotation agents, and in the production of
alcohol and artificial vanillin. The liquor may be fermented to produce ethyl alcohol.
About 40 liters of alcohol can be produced per ton of dry solids. Acetone and butyl alcohol
can also be produced from the liquor waste. Another product of fermenting the liquor is yeast
for cattle feed.
The spent cooking liquor produced in the sulfate process (kraft mills) contain
recoverable quantities of sodium salts, resins and fatty acids. Caustic soda (Na2CO3) is
recovered from them. The resin and fatty acids are further refined and have a variety of
applications in industry. In chemical precipitation with lime as coagulant, lignin is
precipitated which is used both as a fuel and in the manufacture of plastics, production of
tannins, as an anti-scale or antifoam agent in boilers. Wastewater from the paper mills have
also been found to be good for irrigation of number of crops.
Recycling Potential of Glasses
Glasses are 100 % recyclable and can be effectively recycled for ever. The recyclable
glasses in MSW are container glass (the clear, green and brown bottles and jars for food and
beverages), flat glass (e.g. window panes), and pressed amber or green glass. Glasses to be
recycled is often separated by color into categories of clear, green and amber. Broken glasses
are known as cullet which are valuable raw material in the production of new glasses.

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151

Manufacturer adds about 40 tons of cullet to every 100 tons of raw materials silica sand to
produce glass.
However, several vitreous materials may look and shatter like glasses, but are NOT
recyclable. They do not melt like glass. Even a minute amount of these materials can
contaminate the whole load of recyclable glasses and render them useless. These are ceramic
mugs and plates, cups and crockery such as pyrex and corning ware, mirror, broken drinking
glass and flower vase, light globes and laboratory glass. Contamination as little as 5 grams
per ton is harmful. One tiny fragment of ceramic material in a load of glass cullet can cause
a weakness in the new glass which may crack or even explode when the bottle is filled or
opened.
Recycled glasses are being used as raw material in cement production. (Wong, 2000). A
British firm is building an industry to recycle the used wine bottles into green sand to be
used for filtering drinking water and purify sewage. When the recycling plant is fully
developed it can save the quarrying of high quality sand and use all the waste wine bottles.
The European Union and the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are
funding the project. (www.drydenaqua.com).

Environmental and Economic Benefits of Recycling Glass Wastes


The cullet (broken glass materials) melt at low temperature than the primary raw
materials and hence require 25-30 % less energy on addition and also extends the life of
melting furnaces. Every ton of cullet used saves the equivalent of 30 gallons of oil and
replaces 1.2 tons of virgin raw materials and proportionately reduce the emissions of
greenhouse gas CO2 and other pollutants which would have occurred upon use of oil and
other energy sources in the extraction of virgin materials from nature.
Recycling Potential of Plastic Wastes
Recycling of plastic wastes is not really a good option and is rather a hazard for the
human health and the environment. It gives out toxic fumes like dioxins during melting.
Technologies are not available for recycling of all categories of plastics. Plastics are recycled
by codes. Currently only plastic bottles made of PET (Code 1: soft drink, juice and water
bottles and some plastic jars); HDPE (Code 2: milk bottles, cream containers and juice
bottles); PVC (Code 3: detergent, shampoo and cordial bottles); PP (Code 5: ice cream
containers, takeaway food containers flower pots etc.); PS (Code 6: polystyrene cups, glasses
and meat trays), and bottles with R or please recycle symbols are accepted for recycling.
Two types of plastics most commonly recycled in world are PET (Polyethylene
Terephthalate) and HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). PET is recycled to make soft drink
bottles, deli and bakery trays, carpets, fibrefill and geotextile liners for the waste landfills.
HDPE is recycled to manufacture plastic milk, disinfectant and detergent bottles, recycling
bins, sleeping bags and pillow stuffing, roadside guide posts, irrigation pipes, eskies, water
meter boxes, air-conditioning and recycled layer in new PET plastic bottles, agricultural water
pipes, bags and motor oil bottles. LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) is recycled to make new
plastic bags and films. PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) is recycled to manufacture drainage pipes,
non-food bottles and fencing posts. Recycled polypropylene (PP) is used in auto-parts, carpets
and geo-textiles. Recycled polystyrene (PS) is used to manufacture wide range of office
accessories, video-cassettes and cases.

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Plastic grocery bags made of LDPE or very thin HDPE cannot be recycled as they clog
the system. Some supermarkets take back plastic shopping bags, recycling them into bin
liners, and hospital waste bags. Other plastics like motor oil containers, plastic takeaway food
containers and disposable nappies also cannot be recycled. Also different plastics cannot
always be recycled together. The recycled plastic is often hard and brittle. To overcome this
problem a compatibilser molecule that sticks together the different plastic molecules have
been developed. Such commingled plastic with much gloss and sturdiness as the originals can
be used to make car bumpers and fence posts.

Environmental and Economic Benefits of Recycling Plastic Wastes


Recycling of plastics at least diverts thousands of tons of plastic materials from ending up
in landfills every year and besides saving landfill space also arrest emissions of some very
toxic gases and leachate discharge from the landfills.
Recycling Potential of Waste Wood
It is a waste from the timber industries, forestry and agricultural activities and from
building construction and demolitions. Technology found its use in the manufacture of
plywood and medium density fiber board (MDF). They have properties like natural wood
with additional advantage of not being flammable and absorbing moisture, resistant to pest
attack and low cost. They are also shredded and processed as wood chips for fuel or
landscaping cover.
Recycling Potential of Construction and Demolition (CD) Wastes
CD wastes results from construction, renovation, and demolition of buildings; road
repaving; bridge repairs; and the cleanup after natural disasters. Typically they are made of
about 40-50 % rubbish (concrete, asphalt, bricks, blocks, and dirt), 20-30 % wood and related
products (pallets, stumps, branches, forming and framing lumber, treated lumber, and
shingles), and 20-30 % miscellaneous wastes (painted or contaminated lumber, metals, tarbased products, plaster, glass, white goods, asbestos and other insulation materials, plumbing,
heating and electrical parts).
The principal materials that are now recovered from the CD wastes are asphalt, concrete,
wood, drywall, asphalt shingles, and ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Reinforcing steel used in
foundations, slabs, and pavements are usually recovered and sold as scraps for recycling.
Concrete and asphalt are processed for road base, aggregate in asphalt pavement, and as
substitute for gravel aggregate in new concrete. Many landfills use the rubbles for road
building and as daily cover material for the compacted waste in the landfill. (Hamilton,
2000).

10.7. Recycling Potentials of Some Hazardous Industrial Wastes (IHW)


Technologies have been developed to recycle several categories of hazardous industrial
wastes. Several hazardous industrial wastes are now finding new use and applications in
construction industries through recycling. (Noll et. al., 1985).

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New Use of Phosphogypsum from Phosphatic Fertilizer Industry


Radioactively contaminated calcium sulphate slurry called phosphogypsum
(CaSO4.2H2O) is a waste byproduct of these industries. For every ton of phosphoric acid
produced, 5 tons of phosphogypsum (PG) must be removed. It is now being recovered and
reused to manufacture partition panel, ceiling tiles/boards, walling blocks etc. They save
cement and steel and minimize the use of timber. Direct reuse of PG, however, presents the
potential problem of incorporating radioactivity into building or road products.
Several firms in the US and UK is processing the PG into useful cement or plaster. The
quality of cement compares favourably with limestone-based cement and is used in all classes
of building construction and civil engineering. It possess a compressive strength 3 to 4 times
that of Portland cement (1100 kg / cm2 as compared to 300-400 for Portland cement).
Moreover the cost of cement production from PG was US $10 / ton as compared to $ 30- $ 40
/ ton for Portland cement. The PG is chemically processed into hemihydrate powder to use
in cement manufacture. Some South African fertilizer plants disposes about 25 % of its PG as
soil conditioner, cement clinker and as cement retarder. (Noll et. al., 1985).
Any recovery and reuse of phosphogypsum (PG) would also free up reclaimable land
resources for productive purposes by the industry or privately.
New Use of Fly-ash from Waste Slurry in Coal-fired Power Plants
Fly-ash is a waste byproduct of coal combustion in coal-fired power plants generally
consisting of very fine particles. It pollutes water bodies. The wastewater usually contain
6750 gm / liter of fly-ash. A common method of fly-ash removal from the steam power-plant
flue gases is by the use of wet scrubbers, electrostatic precipitators, or cyclone
separators. Major chemical component of fly-ash are silica (30-50 % by weight as SiO2) and
alumina (20-30 % by weight as Al2O). Other materials are sulfur trioxide (SO3), carbon (C)
and boron (B). It is now being reused to manufacture clay bonded bricks / blocks, fly-ash
ceramics, aerated light weight cellular blocks and slabs, precast blocks for footpath,
butiminous concrete for road surfacing and cement concrete etc. Fly-ash bricks have replaced
baked earthen bricks and have saved million tones of fertile soil from getting eroded.
Technology has found several new uses for fly-ash:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
8)

As a pozzolana ingredient in Portland cement;


As a pozzolana in soil stabilization;
As a soil conditioner in agriculture;
As a grout in oil wells;
In asphalt roofing and siding materials;
As a cement replacement in concrete;
As a mineral filler in asphalt pavement;
As a coagulant in sewage treatment.

New Use of Red Mud from Aluminum Industry


Red Mud is a waste from the aluminum industry being generated in million tones every
year. It is a bauxite residue and clay like silt consisting of undissolved minerological
components. It is being reused in cement industries both as component of cement raw mix as

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well as additives. Red mud light roofing sheets has been developed as an alternative to the
dangerous asbestos roofs.
New Use of Metallic Slag from Iron and Steel Industries It is a waste from the Iron and
Steel industries and an excellent secondary raw material for cement production.

10.8. Thermal Recycling of Hazardous Wastes to Retrieve Thermal Energy


Several hazardous industrial wastes such as paint thinners, degreasing solvents, solvents
from ink and printing industries, dry-cleaning fluids, chemical by-products from
pharmaceutical industries, waste papers, waste oils and waste auto tires, sewage sludge and
municipal solid waste can be used as fuel in industries.
Cement Kiln Using Hazardous Industrial Wastes as Fuel and Replacing Fossil Fuels The
manufacture of cement from limestone require high kiln temperatures (about 1500 C) and
long residency times. This create an excellent opportunity for hazardous waste to be used as
fuel and also get destroyed in the process. As much as 40 % of the fuel requirement of a well
operated cement kiln is saved by the use of hazardous wastes.. It is like killing two birds in
one shot. Further, as the environment inside the kiln is alkaline due to the presence of lime,
the acidic gases and the hydrogen chloride generated from the chlorinated wastes (which is
poses problem in conventional incinerators) are neutralized. Combustion of wastes in a
commercial incinerator also produces ash which needs to be disposed off. Here there is no
ash and the only by-product is the dust which is recycled. Any incombustible material such
as metals in the waste, becomes vaporized and incorporated in the product. Up to 95-99 % of
the chloride and over 99 % of the lead entering the kiln are retained by the process solids.
When the kilns are operating properly dioxins and furans and the particulate matters
(which are emitted in the conventional incinerators) are significantly cut down and there is no
risk to human health and the environment. U.S. uses about 1 million tons of hazardous wastes
as a fuel in cement kilns every year. Reduction in use of fossil fuels as the source of energy in
cement plants proportionately reduce the emissions of greenhouse gas CO2 and other
pollutants which would have occurred otherwise. (Jones and Herat, 1984).

10.9. Recycling Potential of Some Hazardous Consumer Wastes (CHW)


Appropriate technologies are now available to recycle several categories of hazardous
wastes including the hazardous electronics wastes (e-waste) generated by society.

Recycling of E-Waste A Hazardous and Costly Process: Reuse A Better Option


Millions of tones of e-waste all over the world are ending up in landfills. According to
the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition in the U.S. cost of recycling obsolete and discarded
computers is estimated to be at US $ 10 to $ 60 per unit. And if poorly handled during the
clean-up cost of toxic materials from the e-waste, it could go higher. SVTC estimates the
minimum costs for recycling and proper disposal of the remaining non-recyclable e-waste in
US will reach US $ 10.8 billion by 2015 (Schneiderman, 2004). This could be the
approximate cost of recycling of e-waste in all developed nations including the European

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Union, Canada and Australia where labor cost is high. Local governments and councils in
these nations have neither the technical ability nor the financial resources to tackle this
gigantic techno-economic problem at their own.
Reuse is a better option for several categories of e-waste. The term reuse would mean
using any old and obsolete electronic product or equipment with or without minor repair and
reasonable upgrading, if possible. The best way of reuse is that computers can be sold to the
employees of the organizations or the students of institutions at very reasonable price or
donated to charitable organizations, schools, orphanage centers, old people homes, women
asylums etc. Institutions and organizations in the rich developed nations (where computer
models are changing fast) should develop a system based on ethics for donating their old
computers to the needy organizations in the developing countries.
The term recycling of e-waste would mean to dismantle the equipment or a product and
retrieve the valuable components / materials from it for their reuse in other equipment or remanufacture a new equipment / product. The difficulty with electronic waste and many other
end of life electronic products is that they are made from a huge range of component
materials that are useless for further manufacture until the product is dismantled and the
component materials are separated often a very difficult and expensive process.
Recycling may be a good option for the extremely old generation computers such as the
Pre-Pentium generation, or the computers (specially the monitors) which are broken.
According to the International Association of Electronics Recyclers (IAER) more than 1.5
billion pounds of electronics equipment are recycled annually and is likely to grow by a factor
of 4 or 5 by the end of this decade. Eleven countries currently have mandatory electronics
recovery laws on the books. These are Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden,
Switzerland, Japan, Belgium, Taiwan, Portugal and South Korea. Some EU nations have very
strong system for e-waste collection, such as the SWICO system in Switzerland and the
Netherlands Association for Disposal of Metalectro Products (NVMP). NVMP collect 80 %
of e-waste. About 77 % of TVs and 64 % of other small brown goods are recovered for reuse
and recycling. (Monchamp, 2000; Cui and Forssberg, 2003; Mathew et. al., 2004)

Recycling Potential of Lead-Acid Car Batteries


Billions of lead-acid car batteries are used and replaced every year across the world, 70 to
80 millions in US alone. The average battery contains about 18 pounds of recoverable lead
and the worldwide recycling rate is now 90 %. Batteries are crushed and then the lead, plastic,
and sulfuric acid are separated. In an innovative recycling process developed in Italy in the
1980s, batteries are crushed in a hammer mill and the components are separated on a
vibrating screen. The acid / lead paste slurry is neutralized, the lead oxide is separated, and
the reusable sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid are recovered from the solution by
electrodialysis. Lead oxides are reduced by electrolysis and combined with metallic
components, then melted at 400-500 C and cast into ingots. (Vaysgant, et. al., 1995).
Recycling Potential of Household Batteries
Billions of household dry-cell batteries are used and discarded worldwide, 2.5 billion in
the US alone. These batteries are discarded with the general household waste. These batteries
contain mercury, cadmium, lead, and other metals, which become toxic contaminants in the
landfill leachate or in the air emissions if MSW are incinerated. Study reveals that household

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batteries are the source of more than 50 % of the mercury and cadmium in the MSW.
Recycling of these batteries are difficult. Cylindrical 6-volt and 9-volt alkaline and carbonzinc batteries are not recyclable. Only nickel-cadmium cylindrical cells or mercuric oxide and
silver oxide button cells can be recycled. Mixed button batteries are difficult to sort out and
may present a storage hazard in the MSW waste bin due to mercury vapor emissions.

Recycling Potential of Auto Tires


Several millions of auto tires are rejected every year all over the world which turn as
hazardous wastes. Earlier they were reused after retreading, but with the advent of steelbelted radials and cheaper new tires most are discarded as waste. They cannot be landfilled as
they occupy large volume and tend to come to the surface.
Auto tires present problem for safe recycling as they are made of hazardous materials.
The best option is to reuse them as fuel resource in cement kilns. About 70 % of the waste
auto tires in the US is being used as source of energy in cement kilns thus also reducing use
of coal and emission of greenhouse gases. Power plants, paper and pulp mills and the cement
kilns commonly use the shredded tires as fuel. Whole tires are also used to create artificial
reefs for erosion control and as highway crash barriers. Split and punched tires are used to
make muffler hangers, belts, gaskets, and floor mats.
Recycling Potential of Waste Oils and Lubricants from Automobiles Industries
Billions of gallons of petroleum-derived waste oil are produced worldwide mostly from
the automobiles and some from the industries. Automotive oils include crancase oil, diesel
engine oil, transmission, brake and power steering fluids. Waste oil often contains metals like
arsenic, cadmium, barium, chromium, and zinc; chlorinated solvents and organic compounds
like benzene and naphthalene.
Used lubricants can be recycled in two ways- by reprocessing and by re-refining.
Reprocessing is done by water and bottom sediment removal of suspended material and ash
by gravity settling or chemical treatment to produce partially cleaned fuel oil. Heat is
sometimes used to decrease viscosity and improve gravity settling. Distillation is also done to
evaporate light fuel fractions. Re-refining produces a clean oil but it is very expensive affair.
This is done by solvent treatment / vacuum distillation / hydrotreatment; by acid clay,
chemical cleaning / demetalling etc.
Recycled lubricating oils are used as transformer oil, equipment oil, motor oil, cutting oil,
soluble oil, diesel oil, gasoline, antifreeze, brake fluids and hydraulic oils. Waste oils are
mainly recycled to be used as fuel in cement kilns, in commercial, industrial, and marine
boilers, and for space heating. Waste oils can also be used as fuel in cement kilns, in
commercial, industrial, and marine boilers, and for space heating.

11. SOME POLICY MEASURES ON WASTE MANAGEMENT BY


GLOBAL SOCIETY
Considerations of environmental sanitation, health and hygiene, contributing to safety
and security of society are key factors which has prompted to enact suitable legislation for
management of all kinds of waste by the global society. Safe waste management is not only a

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technological pursuit, but also require legal and administrative, economic and ecological
planning.
Governments can develop policies to encourage and support the manufacture of durable
and recyclable goods as well as take-back programs by producers to recycle their products.
If required to take-back and recycle their products, manufactures will be compelled to
produce durable and recyclable items, thus reducing waste for consumers.

11.1. The European Unions Packaging and Packaging Waste (PPW)


Directive (1994)
On average each EU citizen is currently responsible, directly or indirectly, for the
generation of some 172 kg of packaging waste every year. (UNEP, 2006). As early as in
1994 it issued this directive to prevent packaging waste. Yet, the packaging waste (PW)
generation increased by 10 % in the EU-15 between 1997 and 2002, in close line with the
12.6 % growth in GDP. Per capita consumption of plastics increased by almost 50 % from 64
kg / year in 1990 to 95 kg / year in 2002. Only UK managed to actually reduce, and Austria
stabilize the generation of PW since 1997.
The review of the EU-15 PPW in 2005 however, showed that the both the producers
(companies) and the consumers (society) made good progress in recycling PW. The EU target
of recycling 25 % of packaging waste in 2001 significantly increased to 54 % in 2002 in the
15 member countries then. (UNEP, 2006).

11.2. EU Directives on Extended Producer / Manufacturer Responsibility


(EPR) for Reducing Electronic Waste (2001)
In Europe, e-waste is projected to reach 12 million metric tones by 2010 (Schneiderman,
2004). In 2001, the European Union adopted a system called Extended Producer /
Manufacturer Responsibility that requires the electronics manufacturers to take-back their
used products and assume full responsibility for the production of cleaner electronics items,
phasing out of hazardous materials in production process, and also dismantling the e-waste
products more easily for recycling at the end of their useful life by trading-in the products for
recycling.
In January 2003, the EU parliament enacted two directives. The first - Waste Electrical
and Electronics Equipment (WEE) is based on the concept of Extended Producer
Responsibility (EPR) which requires the industries to take-back all their used and obsolete
electronic products for safe recycling. The second directive Restriction on Hazardous
Substances (RoHS), called for phasing out of heavy metals Hg, Cd, Pb and Cr VI in all
electronics items by July 2006 (with a number of exemptions) to reduce hazardous waste
when they are discarded. This has now come into effect. (Adam, 2005).

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11.3. The International Legal Instruments for Combating the Problem of


Hazardous Wastes at Global Level
The United Nations General Assembly initiated to review the international environmental
laws in 1981 at Montevideo. The laws were to cover among other things, the transport,
handling and disposal of toxic and hazardous wastes. Real negotiations to impose curb on the
production, storage and transport of hazardous chemicals and wastes began soon after the
Basel Disaster (Switzerland) in 1986 which resulted into the adoption of Basel Convention
in 1989.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous


Wastes and Their Safe Disposal (1989)
The Convention was adopted in 1989 unanimously by 116 States in the Swiss city of
Basel, to reduce the global generation of hazardous wastes and chemicals to a minimum and
to prohibit / regularize the illegal traffic in hazardous wastes and to fix the responsibilities of
the parties involved. It entered into force on 5 May, 1992 and now have 131 Parties to the
Convention except the U.S. It outlines the general obligations of the hazardous waste
generating nations for moving their wastes across their boundaries either for disposal or for
exchange for recycling. It also outlines the principles of international co-operation to improve
and achieve environmentally sound management of all kinds of hazardous wastes.
Trade in hazardous waste that does not comply with the terms of the Basel Convention or
its control system is illegal, and considered to be criminal. Parties are obliged to enact
stringent national laws to prevent and punish the illegal trafficators in hazardous waste. The
Convention also cooperates with the Interpol over illegal traffic. The first 10 years of the
Convention (1989 1999) concentrated on consolidating its control system, legal framework
and operation through improving the classification of wastes and refining the work on their
hazard characterization.
Cooperation to Developing Countries
Under the Convention international cooperation is to be extended to developing countries
in:
1. Transferring technology and management systems for hazardous waste;
2. Developing and implementing new environmentally sound low-waste technologies,
and improving existing ones to eliminate the generation of waste, as far as
practicable, and studying the economic, social and environmental effects of adopting
the new technologies;
3. Developing and promoting environmentally sound management of hazardous and
other wastes;
4. Promoting public awareness about hazardous waste.

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12. SOME INNOVATIVE IDEAS TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE WASTE


MANAGEMENT
12.1. The Australian Innovations on Landfill Gas Utilization for Energy
Generation While Reducing Emission of Greenhouse Gases
An innovative technology to convert the MSW landfills into a bioreactor is being
experimented in Australia. In the traditional landfills the anaerobic decomposition of waste
is highly retarded and rather inhibited, as the waste has very little moisture. Daily covering
and heavy compaction of waste exclude the moisture content. Normal waste typically
contains 10-30 % moisture. The rate of waste biodegradation is a function of moisture
content. Bioreactor technology significantly reduces the decomposition time and the
production of gas begins soon.
Bioreactor is a large anaerobic digester, in a specially designed void in landfills which
receives municipal solid wastes and the also the biosolid (sludge) from the sewage treatment
plants. In the landfill bioreactor, the waste is not heavily compacted and sufficient moisture
content (45 60 %) is maintained through extensive networks of pipes that re-circulate the
nutrient rich leachate and inject additional water such as the stormwater and the run-off.
Additional microbial inoculum is added to promote rapid anaerobic microbial decomposition
and biogas (60 % methane and 40 % carbon dioxide) production is augmented with 98 %
collection efficiency and conversion to energy. Each kilogram of waste can generate up to
220 liters of methane. In case there is more paper content in the waste, the methane
production is 365 litre / kg. A typical 4000,000 tones per year landfill bioreactor will
produce about 7,500 cum of methane per hour, with a generating capacity of 25 MW. This
will also save greenhouse gas equivalent to taking 175,000 cars off the road.
When biogas generation in the bio-cell declines, the residual partially degraded organic
materials can be excavated and used as a soil conditioner or feedstock for composting.
Besides, generating biofuel and biofertilizer, the recycling technology will reduce the
emission of greenhouse gas (methane) from the landfills. Fugitive emissions of VOCs is
decreased to as low as 0.7 %. It would also reduce the environmental risk period of landfills
to 5-10 years from 30-50 years.

Power Generation from Landfill Gas


The ReOrganic Energy Swanbank in Ipswich, Brisbane, Australia is generating electricity
from the landfill biogas. Natural biodegradation processes in the landfills are enhanced in a
special configuration to accelerate the production of biogas (methane). This is supplied to the
Swanbank Power Plant for electricity generation displacing coal. By end of April 2002, some
20,000 cubic meters per day of biogas was produced and utilized and over 2,300 MWh of
electricity generated. It is envisaged that over this period beginning from 2002 to 2016, some
90,000 cubic meters of biogas per day will be utilized, 500,000 MWh of electricity will be
generated, while some 250,000 tones of coal will be displaced and approximately 3 million
tones of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas (methane and carbon dioxide) will be
arrested from going to the atmosphere. The $ 4 million project took some 20 months to
complete.

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After successful utilization of landfill gases for power generation at Ipswich, another $ 5
million landfill gas power generating facility was launched at Rochedale Landfill site in
Brisbane in 2004, generating 3 MW of power. This is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by
20,000 tones a year and also supply electricity to 5000 homes. Since the closure of the landfill
at Roghan Road, Fitzgibbon in March 2000, BCC has also started generating 2 MW
electricity from the methane produced in the old landfill. New waste landfills in Brisbane are
now purpose designed to be used as bioreactors for biogas generation and electricity
production, killing two birds in one shot (www.thiess-services.com.au).

12.2. Molok Waste Bins: Odor Free, Less Space, Holds More Waste and
Emptied Less Often: An Australian Innovation
The Molok Pty. Ltd. Of NSW in Australia has invented a new waste collection bin (40 x
120 L size) 60 % of which lies underground and only 40 % is visible. It is installed to a depth
of 1.5 meter in ground and takes 80 % less surface area than the conventional waste bins. It
comes in 300 L, 1300 L, 3000 L and 5000 L sizes suiting to all locations in residential and
commercial areas. The containers are water tight and the waste drop hole opening is
approximately 1.1 m above ground level. Within the PVC container is suspended the lifting
waste bag made of double layered textile material. While emptying the bag is simply lifted by
the hydraulic lifting arm and hoisted into the truck container. Emptying 5000 L Molok bin
takes about 3 mins and is one man job.
The key advantage of the vertical bin is that gravity forces the old waste to compact as
the new waste is added, and the oldest waste materials at the bottom of the container is kept
cool because the earth underground is naturally cool due to evaporation. The lowering of
temperature at the bottom reduces microbial activity arresting any odor problem. It is also
likely that there will be lesser emission of greenhouse gas methane.(www.molok.com.au).

12.3. The Innovative Bio-Bin System of Cleanway for Kerbside Composting


of Green Waste
Cleanaway is an enterprise of Brambles Industries Limited established in 1970. It
operates across Australia and around the world. It provides services in waste recycling, safe
hazardous waste disposal, site remediation, and landfill operations. It operates 8 waste
recycling plants in four Australian states. Its co-mingled bin recycling system services over
770,000 Australian households and has participation rate over 85 %. Cleanaway has
introduced a new and innovative concept of Bio-insert system. The Bio-Bins break down
green organic waste on the kerbside and reduces the weight of the waste. It promotes
oxygen-flow around and through the organic waste, triggering the aerobic decomposition
process. Problems like odor, leachate production and greenwaste sticking to the bottom of the
bin are eliminated because of oxygenation. The contents of the bio-bins are less compacted,
drier, lighter and more uniform than those in the standard bins. It forms good feed-stock
material for the compost facility operators. A collection frequency of 4 weeks is
recommended for green organics, while 2 weeks for the food organics. It is also inexpensive

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to integrate the bio-bin system into the existing waste management services and would save
the city councils considerable expenses in collection and landfill costs. Bio-Bins are widely in
use in Europe and North America for the past ten years. A trial of bio-bins is being conducted
in the City of Mooney Valley, Melbourne, Victoria with very encouraging results.

12.4. The Innovative DiCOM Aerobic-Anaerobic-Aerobic Hybrid System of


Bioconversion of MSW into Clean Biofuel and Biofertilizer
A new and innovative hybrid biological system for composting of MSW was developed
in Australia in 2000 by AnaeCo which process the MSW and produces a finished product in
less than half the time required for normal aerobic process of microbial composting without
any odor problem. The end products are green energy (biogas methane) and compost. This
has been termed as DiCOM bioconversion process.
The facility was installed at the cost of $ 5 million and is situated in Perth, Western
Australia. It receives commingled municipal solid wastes (MSW) from the local councils,
removes the non-compostable inert materials (the dry recyclable) such as the metals, glasses
and plastics from the waste and then subject the organic materials to a Three (3) Stage
Processing that involves an Anaerobic Digestion Phase in between the initial and final
Aerobic Composting period. The methane (CH4) gas generated from the anaerobic digestion
phase is captured and used as biogas fuel for electricity generation at the facility. The
separated recyclable materials are sent to MRF. (www.anaeco.com).
The company has patented this technology. The initial bioconversion capacity was
17,000 tons of MSW per annum which increased to 55,000 tons per annum by 2005. The
whole plant has small ecological foot print requiring small operational area and with
potential for decentralization of waste treatment to multiple sites close to the sources of
community waste generation, thus significantly reducing the cost of waste transportation and
pollution.

12.5. The Innovative Total Waste Management System (TWMS) in


Australia: No Waste to Landfills
Berrybank Piggery in Victoria Shows the Way Charles Integrated Farming Enterprises
Private Limited company in Victoria developed an innovative concept of Total Waste
Management System (TWMS) for its Berrybank Piggery. in Victoria, Australia. The piggery
produces on an average 275,000 L of effluents (sewage) a day with solid contents
approximately 2 %. The company found that the traditional farming philosophy of wasting
nothing and waste from one part of a farm is the input in another makes a good business
sense. On regular inventory program the management of piggery found that half of the feed
consumed by the animals is actually utilized, and the remaining half goes as waste. The
company considered this generation of waste as poor return on investment.
The TWMS is a seven-stage process which salvages all the waste byproducts in the form
of fuel, fertilizer and flush water. Since the introduction of TWMS, the Berrybank Piggery
now daily produces

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Seven (7) tones of waste solids which are utilized as fertilizer for farms;
100,000 L of flush water (recycled water) to be used for flushing toilets;
100,000 L of mineralized water rich in essential micro and macro-nutrients which is
utilized as liquid fertilizer for farm irrigation; and
1,700 cum of biogas fuel (methane) which is used for power generation on farm with
daily output of 2,900 kW of electricity.

The capital cost of the Berrybank Farm project was approximately AU $ 2 million which
was paid back in about 6 years by way of fuel, fertilizer and usable water. From a $ 2 m
investment made in the TWMS for the Berrybank Piggery, the Charles IFE brings in AU $
435,000 return every year. Other environmental benefits was that the odor problem and the
risk of groundwater contamination (due to sewage) was completely eliminated and it
dramatically reduced the consumption of freshwater
(www.environment.gov.au/settlement/industry/corporate/eecp/casestudies/charlesife.html)

12.6. The Indian Innovation on Dumpsite Composting of Commingled MSW:


A Cheaper and Safer Alternative to Costly Landfills?
An innovative technology to compost the un-segregated municipal solid waste (MSW)
biomass on ordinary waste dump-site was developed in India in the 1990s and is giving
excellent results for managing the solid wastes. No prior segregation of commingled waste is
required. Segregation of commingled wastes at source or before composting imposes the
biggest obstacle in any composting technology because it is highly labour intensive job to
segregate the often sticky and wet biodegradable (compostable) matters from the dry nonbiodegradable ones. It becomes much easier after composting.
The technology was developed by Ms. Excel Industries, Mumbai, India and can suit to all
countries and is also flexible for 150-700 MT of waste per day. The largest plant with an
installed capacity to bioprocess 500 tones /day of MSW is operating in Mumbai. The process
can recycle all organic wastes from the households, restaurants and hotels, dairy, agriculture
and agro-processing industries, brewing industries and slaughter houses. (Ranjwani,
1996;.Sinha and Herat, 2002 b).

The Bioconversion Process and the Composting Mechanism


The dump site is leveled and either cemented or paved with bricks on the bottom to
prevent leachate and for easy movement of waste carrying vehicles. Long windrows, about 5
meters wide and 2-3 meters high (deep) are erected and the MSW is then stacked and heaped
in the windrows. A microbial consortium slurry containing active decomposer bacteria and
enzymes are then added to the windrows to initiate rapid aerobic decomposition of the waste
biomass. The slurry is spread on the surface of the garbage and inside the heaps in the
windrows with help of probes, so that it reaches deep and in every pocket of the heap.
Microbial culture of active decomposer bacteria is prepared from the sewage sludge which
contains active decomposer bacteria in millions/gram of the sludge. (Ranjwani, 1996).

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The microbial culture is known as Celrich Substrate DF BC-01. It is prepared after


analyzing the composition of the waste and identifying the predominant materials such as
celluloses, hemicelluloses, lignins, proteins and fats etc. The microbes produce enzymes such
as cellulase, lipase, amylase, protease, pectinase and phospholipase to breakdown the long
chain complexes of the substrates. About 1 kg of the consortium in the colloidal emulsion
form is mixed with 20 litres of water to be used for spraying on about 3 cubic meter of solid
waste and for one ton of waste 200 litres of water is needed. Recycled water can also be used.
The waste heaps are turned around once in 7 to 10 days for proper aeration and the inoculant
slurry is sprayed in each turning to enhance decomposition and maintain the proper moisture
level which is usually 45 - 55 %. The process is exothermic and the windrows reach a
temperature of 70-75 C within 24-36 hours, killing the harmful pathogens and repelling all
birds, stray animals, flies and mosquitoes from the dump site. (Ranjwani, 1996).

Recovery of Compost
The entire process of aerobic decomposition of garbage is completed within 4-6 weeks
and as the decomposition is complete the temperature comes down to normal. It recovers over
90 % of the organic matter in the form of compost which may be 25-30 % of the raw waste on
dry weight basis. Recovery of compost depends upon the presence of organic matter in the
garbage. There will be greater recovery of compost in developed countries as much higher
amount of organic wastes reaches the dump-sites (tips) in every city.
Retrieving the Dry Recyclables
The decomposed waste biomass is passed through rotary and vibratory screens to sieve
out the compost. The soft decomposed powdery materials gets easily separated from the
plastics, metals, stones and pebbles. About 20-25 % are dry recyclable materials and the rest
about 20-25 % are inert materials which are disposed in ordinary land-fills.
Same Land for Dumpsite Can be Reused and No Need of Engineered Landfill
The same dump-sites can be used again and again after excavating the biodegraded mass
(compost) and there is no need of additional land for making more dump-sites. Also the need
for engineered land-fills are greatly reduced because very little is left to be disposed off
after retrieving the compost and the recyclable materials.
Low Emission of Greenhouse Gas Methane
The problem of emission of landfill gas methane (CH4) is significantly minimized as the
waste is turned constantly and the waste biomass is thoroughly aerated throughout the
composting period.
Foul Odor at Waste Dumpsite Disappear Soon Giving Relief to Waste Workers
Emission of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide which are mainly responsible for foul odor at
the waste dump-site (tips), and the leachate discharge is also greatly reduced. The foul odor at
the waste dump-site disappear within 2-3 days of sanitization by the microbial culture giving
great relief to the waste workers and the local residents.

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13. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS


An assessment of waste generation not only involves the production and distribution of
commodities and services but also its actual history of use/reuse/recycling. How people act as
consumers, re-users and recyclers is as important as how a thing is made and sold to
consumers.
Any government policy, any waste reducing and recycling technology and strategy
cannot succeed unless every member of society is aware and behave responsibly. Sometimes
policing becomes essential to change societal behavior. Random check of waste bins by
councils and refusal to pick up waste not disposed according to council directives, can force
people to behave. The strategy has worked well in some Canadian cities. Economic
instruments also seem to affect human behavior. Landfill taxes in Denmark, Austria,
Ireland, Italy and the UK, and charging people for plastic bags in supermarkets in Denmark
and Ireland (and in France from late 2005 onward) have changed the human behavior in these
nations. Manufacturers of consumer goods hold great responsibility in reducing waste in
modern consumerist society. Governments of nations need to come out with a policy of
durable and recyclable goods by manufacturers, and also take back policy of their products
for recycling. It will also be a disincentive for them to change their product versions too
frequently to lure people.
Society has to play very critical role in all waste management programs. The traditional
societies were basically recycling societies. They made best use and reuse of all materials
several times before discarding them. The modern society is basically a throwaway society
which discard most materials after short use. Modern human societies have to revive some of
the traditional cultures of resource conservation, resource recycling and their ethical use.
Waste recycling is essential for economic stability, ecological sustainability, environmental
safety and survival of the global human society.
Human society has to begin the process of recycling at the source the home, office, or
factory- so that fewer materials will become part of the disposable solid wastes of a
community. A consumer education program is needed to educate the society about the
hidden environmental value (the energy and water it has saved, the pollution and
deforestation it has prevented) of the recycled goods. All recycled goods should have
recycled tag telling about the origin and life history of the goods (from which waste it was
produced) and how it has saved the environment. It would develop a sense of civic pride
among the consumers that he / she is helping the environment. There is always greater
economic and ecological wisdom in reducing waste at source, and diverting more and more of
the waste to the mechanical recycling, biological recycling (composting) and thermal
recycling (combustion) processes to recover some useful materials and energy from them
and reduce their volume, so that less and less waste is left for final disposal in landfills.
Government, industries, science and society all have to join hands in fighting the menace
of mounting wastes. Industries producing consumer goods have to play more responsible role
in waste management program because they have potential to generate waste twice in the lifecycle of the goods produced. First at the production level when they process the virgin raw
materials and generate industrial wastes. Second at the consumption level when the goods
produced by them are used and discarded by the society as municipal solid waste (MSW).
Policy makers have carrot and stick options to encourage or enforce industry to contribute to

Human Waste - A Potential Resource: Converting Trash into Treasure

165

reduce waste. Industrialists also owe moral obligation to provide necessary information to its
prospective buyers on the matter of using, handling, conservation, disposal and recycling
potentialities of its products. In designing new products, the industry must assess its potential
and even suspected adverse impact on its consumers health and the environment.
We need more and more waste to be converted into resource (by recycling) to sustain our
growing population as the several natural resources are either on decline or becoming scarce
or are unavailable and beyond our capability to exploit them sustainabily with present
technology and within the ecological limits. Government must encourage and promote the
recycling industries using waste as raw materials by way of reduced taxation, reduced cost of
water and electricity supply etc. Given current technology, not all the municipal or industrial
wastes can be readily recycled. Nor do all the waste materials have qualities that currently
make them a valuable commodity in the recycling marketplace.
Hazardous waste is growing in U.S. industries and very little is being done to reduce or
recycle them at source. Most hazardous wastes are being exported to poor developing
countries either for dumping or for recycling. (Duke, 1994). Wrong policy decisions of the
U.S. government has aggravated the problem. Study made by an environmental organization
in the U.S. indicates that subsidies given to the timber, mining, oil, energy, and waste disposal
industries undermine and discourage waste recycling industries. These subsidies lower the
cost of products made from new and virgin materials, giving them a competitive advantage
over those made from recyclable materials. Fifteen government subsidies given to these
industries in the U.S. amounted to as much as US $ 13 billion over the next 5 years. It was a
great setback for the waste recycling industries in the U.S. They include indirect subsidies
such as cheap water and energy supply to these industries.(UNEP, 2006).
Life-cycle assessments is also important to determine the recycling potential of a waste
product. A number of life-cycle assessments have found that fully recycled paper is not
always the most environmentally friendly choice. In some countries paper produced from
local agricultural wastes, such as rice straw, may be environmentally more sustainable than
that produced from recyclable paper wastes shipped from overseas or transported from distant
locations in the same country. One study in Australia found that if the recyclable paper waste
is transported more than about 20 km by road, the energy balance (fuel used and pollution
generated during transport) is not in favor of recycling.
Safe disposal of the radioactive wastes which are accumulating exponentially in the
human environment cannot be guaranteed at all even after huge expenditure. A huge pile of
radioactive wastes (most in the U.S., France and Japan) remains to be disposed safely. It was
just 84,000 tones in 1990 and must have crossed 100,000 tones limit by now. According to
the celebrated geologist Konrad No scientist or engineer can give an absolute guarantee
that radioactive waste will not some day leak in dangerous quantities from even the best of
repositories. The word safe seems to be incompatible with radioactive wastes.
However, waste prevention through cleaner production is considered to be even more
wiser and sustainable idea of waste management so that any treatment or recycling is not at
all needed and tremendous cost can be saved. Waste prevention would also reduce the cost of
construction and maintenance of secured landfills because some residual wastes are always
left after treatment or recycling which has to be safely dumped in the landfills.
Educating the environmentally illiterate society is a big challenge. People need to
understand the importance of their activities in the context of global consequences, for
instance, the links between waste generation, greenhouse gas emission and climate change.

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Waste education needs to take place in a continuous way through schools and universities,
through mass and diffuse media and community education programs run by governments at
all levels as well as non-government organizations, businesses and industries.
Waste education of society should become an integral part of all waste management
programs. We have to mend our ways, change our behavior and attitude of life, re-order our
priorities, simplify our life-style, and then only the gigantic problem of mounting solid waste,
which literally threatens to bury the mankind alive, can be overcome. Only a resource
conserving, waste reducing and waste recycling society would be the sustainable human
societies of the future and the throwaway wasteful societies would perish.

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Human Waste - A Potential Resource: Converting Trash into Treasure


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171

In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 4

EFFECTIVE REMOVAL OF LOW CONCENTRATIONS OF


ARSENIC AND LEAD AND THE MONITORING OF
MOLECULAR REMOVAL MECHANISM AT SURFACE
Yasuo Izumi
Department of Chemistry, Graduate School of Science, Chiba University
Yayoi 1-33, Inage-ku, Chiba 263-8522, Japan

ABSTRACT
New sorbents were investigated for the effective removal of low concentrations of
arsenic and lead to adjust to modern worldwide environmental regulation of drinking
water (10 ppb). Mesoporous Fe oxyhydroxide synthesized using dodecylsulfate was most
effective for initial 200 ppb of As removal, especially for more hazardous arsenite for
human's health. Hydrotalcite-like layered double hydroxide consisted of Fe and Mg was
most effective for initial 55 ppb of Pb removal.
The molecular removal mechanism is critical for environmental problem and
protection because valence state change upon removal of e.g. As on sorbent surface from
environmental water may detoxify arsenite to less harmful arsenate. It is also because the
evaluation of desorption rates is important to judge the efficiency of reuse of sorbents. To
monitor the low concentrations of arsenic and lead on sorbent surface, selective X-ray
absorption fine structure (XAFS) spectroscopy was applied for arsenic and lead species
adsorbed, free from the interference of high concentrations of Fe sites contained in the
sorbents and to selectively detect toxic AsIII among the mixture of AsIII and AsV species
in sample.
Oxidative adsorption mechanism was demonstrated on Fe-montmorillonite and
mesoporous Fe oxyhydroxide starting from AsIII species in aqueous solution to AsV by
making complex with unsaturated FeOx(OH)y sites at sorbent surface. Coagulation
mechanism was demonstrated on double hydroxide consisted of Fe and Mg from the
initial 1 ppm of Pb2+ aqueous solution whereas the mechanism was simple ion exchange
reaction when the initial Pb2+ concentrations were as low as 100 ppb.

yizumi@faculty.chiba-u.jp

174

Yasuo Izumi

INTRODUCTION
Recently, global environment induces even serious debate, e.g. the Novel Prize 2007 for
Piece to "An Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore [1]. The environmental problem is not only the
global warming as the major claim in this movie/book by Gore. Contamination of water and
soil is one of traditional, major environmental problems and directly affects the human health,
e.g. carcinogenic risk via drinking water [2 4]. Cadmium contaminated in rice [5], copper
contaminated in environmental water from mine, mercury contaminated in fish [6 8], and
arsenic contaminated in powdered milk are most notorious environmental tragedies occurred
in Japan between 1890 and 1960. These accidents are all related to contamination of water
derived from human activity (industry) [2].
The health risk of poisonous elements in water has been studied and is becoming clear.
Recent environmental regulation sets the minimum level of Mn, Cu, Cd, Pb, Cr, As, and Hg
to 400, 125, 5, 10, 50, 10, and 0.5 ppb, respectively. Among these elements, lead is less
focused and less intensively studied to adjust to the regulation. Arsenic can be contaminated
in ground water not only anthropogenically but from the earth naturally [2 4].
Unfortunately, mines containing As mainly distribute in contact with the ground water in
developing countries, e.g. Bangladesh, East Bengal, Argentina, Chile, and Vietnam [9].
Especially in Bangladesh, the shallow ground water with arsenic concentrations up to 1 ppm
is often used pumped from tube wells without adequate treatment for drinking and thus
leading to serious health problem. The arsenic release into ground water is related to
microbial metabolism of organic matter [10]. The high capital and maintenance costs of piped
water supply are still not acceptable in Bangladesh, especially most affluent villages
compared to present individual tube wells [10]. Lead was used as gasoline additive and
automobile tail pipes and may be included in drinking water from water supply pipes made of
lead, soil contamination, and toys/tools made in developing countries [11, 12].
This chapter reviews recent development of sorbents for low concentrations of Pb and As
to adjust to modern environmental regulation for drinking water and monitoring of the
molecular removal process by selective spectroscopy in water [13]. The monitoring of surface
uptake of Pb [14] and As includes local coordination structure and electronic structure
changes in the inner sphere reaction.

METHODS
This chapter focuses on the removal of Pb and As by sorption because sorption is
economic process to be applicable in developing countries and the reuse is possible by
desorption. The concentrations of Pb and As in test aqueous solutions were set between 55
ppb and 32 ppm in this chapter. Various sorbents were evaluated to maintain the
concentrations of Pb or As less than 10 ppb or not.
Fe-montmorillonite was prepared by mixing 0.43 M ferric nitrate solution with Namontmorillonite (Kunipia F; Na1.5Ca0.096Al5.1Mg1.0Fe0.33Si12O27.6(OH)6.4) [15]. A 0.75 M
sodium hydroxide solution was added dropwise to the mixture until the molar ratio Fe3+
added and hydroxide reached 1:2. Iron cations and/or FeOx(OH)y nanoparticles were inserted
between negatively-charged montmorillonite clay layers. Recently, some chemical forms of

Effective Removal of Low Concentrations of Arsenic and Lead

175

FeIII species formed between montomorillonite layers were spectroscopically analyzed [16].
Monomeric and/or dimeric FeIII species was active in oxidative dehydrogenation of propane.
In contrast, polymeric FeOx(OH)y nanoparticles were effective for arsenic sorption and
unselective propane combustion.
FeOx(OH)y porous material was prepared by mixing 0.10 M ferrous chloride with 0.070
M sodium dodecylsulfate followed by the addition of 0.25 M H2O2 [17]. Obtained FeOx(OH)y
material was mixed with 0.050 M sodium acetate in ethanol for anion exchange or with pure
ethanol for washing. The micro/mesoporous FeOx(OH)y material was characterized by X ray
diffraction (XRD), specific surface area measurements and pore volume determination by N2
adsorption/desorption, high-resolution transmission electron microscope (TEM), Fouriertransformed infrared absorption (FT-IR), inductively coupled plasma (ICP) combined with
optical emission spectroscopy (OES), electron probe microanalysis (EPMA), thermogravimetric differential thermal analysis (TG-DTA), and Fe K-edge X-ray absorption fine
structure (XAFS). Based on these analyses, detailed structural transformation was clarified
for the sorbents as depicted in Figure 8 of Ref [17].
Hydrotalcite-like (pyroaurite) layered double hydroxide Mg6Fe2(OH)16(CO3)3H2O was
synthesized via the procedure described in Ref 18. The carbonate anions are sandwiched
between positively-charged [Mg3Fe(OH)8]+ layers.
To monitor low concentrations of Pb and As, XAFS spectroscopy is most appropriate
technique. For several spectroscopic techniques of structural analysis in the application to
nanotechnology, the advantage and drawback were summarized in Table 1 [19]. For noncrystalline or hybrid samples, EXAFS (extended X-ray absorption fine structure) gives direct
structural information for X-ray absorbing local element sites. XANES (X-ray absorption
near-edge structure) is a part of EXAFS spectrum near the X-ray absorption edge region
ranging up to 100 eV and gives electronic and (indirectly) structural information [20].
Thus, XAFS spectroscopy (EXAFS, XANES) is essentially single technique for local
structure analysis accompanied with valence and coordination symmetry information of
nanoparticles and micro/mesoporous materials. The Pb and As adsorbed from low
concentrations of aqueous solutions in this chapter are typical examples of nanoparticles and
micro/mesoporous material samples.
Further, this chapter combines X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry with the XAFS
spectroscopy [21 24]. Simply, XRF spectra support valence state information deduced from
XAFS. Essentially, high-energy-resolution XRF spectrometry is able to discriminate valence
state of Pb and As. In this chapter, the XRF signals originating from PbII, AsIII, and AsV were
monitored independently in the XAFS measurements to obtain each coordination structure of
PbII, AsIII, and AsV (state-selective XAFS). The experimental setup and measurement
conditions for state-selective XAFS were depicted and described in Refs 21, 23, and 24. In
brief, XRF spectra and state-selective XAFS spectra measurements were performed at
Undulator beamline 10XU of SPring-8 (Sayo, Japan) by utilizing a homemade high-energyresolution Rowland-type fluorescence spectrometer equipped with a Johansson-type Ge(555)
crystal (Saint-Gobain) and NaI(Tl) scintillation counter (Oken). The monochromator of
beamline used Si(111) double crystal and the X-ray beam intensity in front of sample was
monitored using ion chamber (Oken) purged with N2 gas.

176

Yasuo Izumi

Table 1. Various Analytical Methods for Nano Structure Classified Based on Directness
of the Information and the Target to Be Analyzed
Method

Directness

Target

TEM (Transmission electron microscope)

Direct

Local

XRD (X-ray diffraction)

Direct

Local

EXAFS (Extended X-ray absorption fine structure)

Direct

Bulk

XANES (X-ray absorption near-edge structure)

Indirect

Bulk

Raman

Indirect

Bulk

Small angle scattering

Indirect

Bulk

NMR (Nuclear magnetic resonance)

Indirect

Local

Mssbauer

Indirect

Local

SPM (Scanning probe microscope)

Indirect

Local (surface)

Reflectivity

Indirect

Local (surface)

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


Arsenic Problem. Adsorption isotherms of arsenite and arsenate at 290 K for 12 h on Femontmorillonite in batch setup are depicted in Figure 1. The Fe-montmorillonite was superior
to -FeO(OH) (gthite > 95%) both for arsenite and arsenate sorptions. Fe-montmorillonite
consisted of 2-dimensionally distributed Fe3+ ions and FeOx(OH)y nanoparticles between clay
layers [16].
The saturated amount of As adsorbed was evaluated to 8.0 and 76 mgAs gsorbent1 for
arsenite and arsenate, respectively, on Fe-montmorillonite. The equilibrium adsorption
constant was 1.4106 ml gAs1 for arsenite on Fe-montmorillonite. Even better adsorption
capacity was found on acetate-exchanged microporous FeOx(OH)y as depicted in Figure 2 for
arsenite. The saturated amount and the equilibrium adsorption constant of As adsorbed were
evaluated to 21 mgAs gsorbent1 and 1.0107 ml gAs1, respectively. The high specific surface
area of microporous FeOx(OH)y (230 m2 g1) was advantageous compared to Femontmorillonite (100 m2 g1) with as much as 14 wt% of Fe. Utilizing template synthesis
technique for microporous and mesoporous materials, lower coordination FeOx sites were
effectively exposed to surface to complex with AsIII(OH)3 [17, 26]. The acetate-exchanged
and ethanol-washed FeOx(OH)y consist of 3-dimensionally distributed wormholes exposed
with coordinatively unsaturated FeO(OH) sites.

Effective Removal of Low Concentrations of Arsenic and Lead

177

Figure 1. Adsorption isotherms of arsenite (A) and arsenate (B) at 290 K on Fe-montmorillonite (14.0
wt% Fe) (circles) and -FeO(OH) (triangles). Batch tests for 12h. Observed data were plotted as points
and the fits to first-order Langmuir equations were drawn as lines.

The surface uptake mechanism of most toxic arsenite was monitored by XRF and XAFS
spectroscopy. Arsenic was adsorbed on Fe-montmorillonite from 200 ppb test aqueous
solution of arsenite. The As K1 emission spectrum was depicted in Figure 3. The peak
energy position suggested that the adsorbed As state changed to V, not remained at III,
compared to the data for KH2AsVO4 and AsIII2O3 [15].
As K-edge XANES spectra for standard inorganic compounds of As0, AsIII, and AsV
consist of broad peak feature (Figure 4a c) and it is complicating to evaluate each valence
contribution to a spectrum for sample of mixed valence. In order to demonstrate directly the
oxidative adsorption of arsenite suggested above, the author of this chapter observed the
uptake of low concentrations of arsenite on Fe-montmorillonite by means of state-selective
XAFS. Note that the energy resolution of fluorescence spectrometer (1.3 eV; Figure 3) was
smaller than the core-hole lifetime width of As K level (2.14 eV) [27].

Figure 2. Adsorption isotherms of arsenite at 290 K on acetate-exchanged FeOx(OH)y previously heated


at 423 K (circles), ethanol-washed FeOx(OH)y previously heated at 423 K (squares), Fe-montmorillonite
(14.0 wt% Fe; diamonds), and -FeO(OH) (triangles) [25]. Batch tests for 12h. Observed data were
plotted as points and the fits to first-order Langmuir equations were drawn as lines.

178

Yasuo Izumi

Figure 3. Arsenic K1 emission spectrum for As adsorbed on Fe-montmorillonite (14.0 wt% Fe) from
200 ppb test solution of arsenite (points). A fit to data with pseudo-Voigt function (solid line) and the
energy resolution of fluorescence spectrometer (dotted line) were also drawn. The intensity ratio of the
Lorentzian and Gaussian components was fixed to 1:1 for the pseudo-Voigt function.

Figure 4. XANES spectra measured at 290 K in transmission mode for As metal (a), AsIII2O3 (b), and
KH2AsVO4 (c). Arsenic K1-selecting As K-edge XANES spectra measured at 290 K for As adsorbed
on Fe-montmorillonite (14.0 wt% Fe) (d f) from aqueous test solutions of 16 ppm of KH2AsVO4 (d),
16 ppm of AsIII2O3 (e), and 200 ppb of AsIII2O3 (f). Tune energy of fluorescence spectrometer was
10544.3 eV for spectra d f.

Effective Removal of Low Concentrations of Arsenic and Lead

179

Based on the theory discussed in the Appendix section of Ref 24, the As K1-selecting
As K-edge XANES spectrum with the energy resolution of 1.3 eV would be shaper and more
resolved. The energy values of K absorption edge and first strong peak after the edge were
essentially identical for As adsorbed on Fe-montmorillonite from 200 ppb 16 ppm of AsIII
solutions (Figure 4e, f) and from 16 ppm of AsV solution (d). Thus, oxidative adsorption of
200 ppb 16 ppm of arsenite on Fe-montmorillonite was confirmed based on As K1selecting XANES and As K1 emission spectrum. Proposed molecular surface uptake
mechanism was illustrated in Figure 5 over acetate-exchanged microporous FeOx(OH)y. The
reaction formula was AsIII(OH)3 + FeO(OH) (FeO)2AsV(OH)2 + H2O.
In summary, oxidative adsorption of low concentrations (200 ppb 16 ppm) of arsenite
was found on coordinatively unsaturated FeOx(OH)y nanoparticles or micro/mesoporous
FeOx(OH)y partially covered with acetate anions. The oxidation to arsenate seems to be due to
lower coordination of surface FeOx(OH)y species. The lower coordination was also the reason
to make the equilibrium sorption constant greater for acetate-exchanged FeOx(OH)y and Femontmorillonite [15, 17].
Lead Problem. Sorption tests for low concentrations (55 ppb) of lead in flow setup were
depicted in Figure 6 [18]. The superiority of Mg6Fe2(OH)16(CO3)3H2O was clearly
demonstrated to maintain the Pb2+ concentration less than modern environmental regulation
(10 ppb) compared to commercially available activated carbon.
Lead L1 emission spectrum for Pb adsorbed on Mg6Fe2(OH)16(CO3)3H2O from 100
ppb Pb2+ test solution was depicted in Figure 7. The peak energy was identical to that for
standard PbII compounds. The energy resolution of fluorescence spectrometer in this
measurement condition was 5.0 10.1 eV dependent on the measurement conditions of
fluorescence spectrometer (Figure 7) [24, 28]. Because the core-hole lifetime widths are 5.81
and 2.48 eV for Pb L3 and M5 levels, respectively [27], the width for L1 is 8.29 eV
comparable to the energy resolution of fluorescence spectrometer. Thus, sharper, more
resolved spectral feature was expected in Pb L1-selecting Pb L3-edge XANES spectrum if
the energy resolution of fluorescence spectrometer was smaller than 5.81 eV, similar to the
case of As K1-selecting XANES in previous section.

Figure 5. Proposed adsorption mechanism of low concentrations of arsenite on acetate-exchanged


FeOx(OH)y previously heated at 423 K.

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Yasuo Izumi

Figure 6. Results of sorption on Mg6Fe2(OH)16(CO3)3H2O and on activated carbon from 55 ppb of


Pb2+ aqueous test solution. The space velocity was 150 min1.

Figure 7. Lead L1 emission spectrum for 0.12 wt% of Pb adsorbed on Mg6Fe2(OH)16(CO3)3H2O.


The solid line is the experimental data, and (wider) dotted line is a fit with a pseudo-Voigt function.
The intensity of the Lorentzian and Gaussian components was fixed to 1:1. The narrower dotted line is
the energy resolution of fluorescence spectrometer (10.1 eV).

Effective Removal of Low Concentrations of Arsenic and Lead

181

Pb L1-selecting XANES spectra are shown in Figure 8a c. The spectral pattern of b


and c resembled each other. The two samples contained 0.30 0.12 wt% of lead adsorbed
from 100 ppb test aqueous Pb2+ solution. The Pb contents in samples were determined by
ICP. Compared to XANES spectra for standard inorganic Pb compounds (Figure 8d i) and
supported Pb species on zeolite [29] or on Fe2O3 [30], the spectra b and c resembled most
spectrum d measured for ion-exchanged PbY zeolite (d). Thus, surface uptake mechanism via
ion exchange reaction was proposed on Mg6Fe2(OH)16(CO3)3H2O from relatively low
concentration of 100 ppb divalent lead solutions (Figure 9). The reaction formula is
[Mg3Fe(OH)8]+ + Pb2+ [Mg3Fe(OH)7(OPb)]2+ + H+.
Pb L1-selecting XANES spectrum for Pb adsorbed from 1.0 ppm test Pb2+ solution is
depicted in Figure 8a. Compared to XANES spectra for standard inorganic Pb compounds
(Figure 8d i), the spectrum a resembled most spectrum g measured for 2PbCO3Pb(OH)2.
Thus, coagulation uptake mechanism was proposed on Mg6Fe2(OH)16(CO3)3H2O from
relatively high concentration of 1 ppm Pb2+ test solution. Thus-identified reaction formula
was Pb2+ + nCO32 + 2(1 n)OH nPbCO3(1 n)Pb(OH)2.

Figure 8. Lead L1-selecting Pb L3-edge XANES spectra measured at 290 K for Pb adsorbed on
Mg6Fe2(OH)16(CO3)3H2O (a c). Tune energy of fluorescence spectrometer was 10551.5 eV. The Pb
content was 1.0 wt% adsorbed from 1.0 ppm Pb2+ aqueous test solution (a) and 0.30 (b) and 0.12 wt%
(c) from 100 ppb Pb2+ test solution. XANES spectra measured in transmission mode (d i) for PbY
zeolite (d), PbO (e), Pb(NO3)2 (f), 2PbCO3Pb(OH)2 (g), Pb6O4(OH)4 (h), and PbCO3 (i).

With closer look of Figure 8a c, a shoulder feature appeared at 13049 eV. Similar
shoulder feature can be found in spectra for PbO, 2PbCO3Pb(OH)2, and Pb6O4(OH)4 (spectra

182

Yasuo Izumi

e, g, and h, respectively). However, intense peak at 13060.1 13060.5 eV for PbO or


Pb6O4(OH)4 did not appear in spectra a c. Thus, minor coagulation uptake mechanism was
suggested from 100 ppb Pb2+ solutions in addition to major ion exchange process (Figure 9).

Figure 9. Pb2+ adsorption mechanism on Mg6Fe2(OH)16(CO3)3H2O from Pb2+ 1.0 ppm and 100 ppb
aqueous solutions.

In summary, Pb2+ uptake mechanism on Mg6Fe2(OH)16(CO3)3H2O exhibited a switchover from coagulation to (major) ion exchange reactions as the Pb2+ concentration decreased
from 1.0 ppm to more environmentally plausible 100 ppb [28].

CONCLUDING REMARKS AND FUTURE PROSPECTS


This chapter focused on the removal of low concentrations (55 200 ppb) of arsenite and
lead by utilizing Fe-montmorillonite, micro/mesoporous FeOx(OH)y effectively porous due to
carboxyl-exchange method, and layered double hydroxide consisted of Fe and Mg
(pyroaurite). It is still open to discuss the systematic survey of the removal process of other
dilute toxic elements, e.g. Cr, Cu, Zn, Cd, or Hg. It is important to formulate the efficiency of
surface uptake with respect to critical factors, i.e. pH, chemical species of toxic elements
(naked cations, oxyanions, or oxyhydroxyl anions), initial concentrations (10 100 ppb) and
space velocity of aqueous solutions to be processed, and chemical combination of surface
versus chemical species (e.g. FeIIIO(OH) versus As(OH)3 and OH(clay surface)/CO32
(between layers) versus Pb2+).
In the analytical point of view to monitor the destiny of low concentrations of toxic
elements, selective XAFS technique, with which the author of this chapter has also

Effective Removal of Low Concentrations of Arsenic and Lead

183

investigated surface catalytic sites of gold, platinum, tin, and vanadium [31 35], needs to be
combined with other technique with nanoscale spacial resolution. Spectroscopy with
nanoscale spacial resolution is under investigation, but not established to be applicable to
nanotechnology (Table 2).
At present, spacial resolution of X-ray microscopy is 1 m [36]. Several types of X-ray
microscopy/imaging are under investigation, e.g. microbeam XAFS, photoemission electron
microscope (PEEM), or phase contrast imaging [37, 38]. The spacial resolution of TEM is
already smaller than 1 nm if the sample nanoscopic condition matches to the high-resolution
measurement. To monitor the sorption between 2-dimensinal layers (e.g. montmorillonite,
hematite), in 2-dimensional mesopores (e.g. FSM-16, MCM-41), and in 3-dimensional
micro/mesopores (e.g. ZSM-5, acetate-exchanged FeOx(OH)y [17]), 3-dimensional TEM
images would be very helpful by taking series of TEM snapshots from various angles to
sample and organizing 3-dimensional image on computer [39].
Scanning probe microscope (SPM), especially scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and
atomic force microscope (AFM), has an advantage of atomic resolution for well-defined
surface [40]. To utilize SPM technique to monitor the sorption from low concentrations of
toxic elements, the combination with element specific spectroscopy, e.g. XPS, XAFS, is
essential to describe the surface chemical mechanism. The author of this chapter is
developing this combination (AFM and XPS) based on temporal electron trap phenomena in
the metal nano-dots in the front of the AFM tip [41, 42].
Table 2. Spectroscopy Needed to Be Developed to Give Direct Spacial Information of
Surface Uptake Mechanism from Low Concentrations (10 100 ppb) of Toxic Metal
Elements
Probe

Method

Factor to be developed for this application

Refs

X-ray Microscope

Smaller X-ray beam (< 10 nm)

[36 38]

Electron Microscope

3-dimensional information

[39]

Tip Microscope

Scanning probe microscope to discriminate

[41, 42]

the kind of element


X-ray Diffraction

Surface-sensitivity between nano-layers or

[43]

in micro/mesospace
X-ray XAFS/XRF

On-site analysis in the field

[44, 45]

Surface-sensitive XRD may be applicable to monitor the application of water purification


[43]. The breakthrough is selectivity to internal surface of layered and micro/mesoporous
materials used as sorbents. Portable XRF/XAFS apparatus that has been investigated for
space science [44, 45] will be applicable to environmental on-site monitoring of the fate of
toxic elements in the field.

184

Yasuo Izumi

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This article is part 26 in the series of state-sensitive XAFS. The X-ray experiments were
performed under the approvals of the SPring-8 Program Review Committee and of the Photon
Factory Proposal Review Committee. The works included in this chapter were financially
supported by grants from the Grant-in-aid for Encouragement of Young Scientists
(B14740401, A12740376) and the Grant-in-aid for Basic Scientific Research (B13555230,
C17550073) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology,
Yamada Science Foundation (2000), Toray Science Foundation (98-3901), and Research
Foundation for Opto-Science and Technology (2005 2006).

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In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 5

ON THE REDISTRIBUTION OF TISSUE METAL


(CADMIUM, NICKEL AND LEAD) LOADS IN MINK
ACCOMPANYING PARASITIC INFECTION BY THE
GIANT KIDNEY WORM (DIOCTOPHYME RENALE)
Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli
Department of Biology, Laurentian University,
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, P3E 2C6

ABSTRACT
Patterns of metal uptake and accumulation in mink living under conditions of
environmental pollution and simultaneously inflicted with the invasive giant kidney
worm (Dioctophyme renale) parasite have not been examined, nor is the combined effect
of these dual insults on the health and physical condition of the animal known. Using
animals collected within the influence of the long-active ore-smelters at Sudbury,
Ontario, an examination was made of toxic metal (Cd, Ni and Pb) levels and their tissue
distributions within adult male mink bearing different intensities of parasite infection.
Higher metal burdens were indicated within infected specimens than those uninfected.
Combined renal and hepatic nickel and lead burdens were highest for mink with multiple
worm infections, although only lead accumulations reached statistical significance.
Cadmium accumulated to the greatest extent in the hypertrophied left kidney and liver,
whereas nickel and lead were deposited more readily in the bony spicule of the
parasitized right kidney cyst. The relative distribution of cadmium among renal, hepatic
and renal cyst tissues (cast, spicule, worms) remained unchanged subsequent to D. renale
infection, while the proportions of nickel and lead deposited in hepatic tissue were
reduced. Metal burdens in female D. renale were three-fold higher than those of male
worms, with the difference being attributable to the substantially greater size of the
females. Canonical Correlation Analyses of condition measures and body metal burdens
failed to indicate a direct relationship between infection intensity and body fat deposits
but did confirm a positive association between metal loads and increased fat levels, along
with enhanced gonad weights, neck circumference and reduced spleen weights. Such
associations may be productive aspects for future investigation into the combined effects
of increased metal loads and parasitic infection on the host system.

188

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

INTRODUCTION
Investigating metal contaminant levels in parasites has received considerable attention of
recent, with the goal of most studies being to identify useful bioindicators and/or biomonitors
of environmental pollutants. The use of parasites as indicators of metal contaminants within
fish and aquatic environments has been studied extensively, and has shown that
acanthocephalans and to a lesser extent cestodes, can accumulate extremely high
concentrations of metal pollutants (Sures et al., 1994 a,b,c; Sures and Taraschewski, 1995;
Sures et al., 1997 a,b,c; Siddall and Sures, 1998; Sures et al., 1999; Tenora et al., 1999a;
Turcekova and Hanzelova, 1999: Zimmermann et al., 1999; Tenora et al., 2000; Barus et al.,
2001b; Turcekova et al., 2002; Palikova and Barus, 2003; Sures, 2003; Williams and
Mackenzie, 2003). By comparison, studies focused on bird-parasite systems are relatively few
(Barus et al., 2001a; Tenora et al., 2001; Tenora et al., 2002). Virtually no work of this nature
has been done on nematode parasites in mammals, with the exceptions of Szefer et al. (1998)
who studied the bioaccumulation of trace elements in lung nematodes of harbour porpoises,
Greichus and Greichus (1980) and Sures et al. (1998) who reported on roundworms of the pig
and Tenora et al. (1999b) who examined metal levels in either gender of Toxocara canis and
Protospirura muricola specimens and their respective hosts. The extent to which parasites
affect metal uptake and distribution in host tissues is largely unknown and, for the most part,
was not investigated in the above studies. It is known from the literature, however, that
helminth infestation may affect the hosts sensitivity to toxic metals (Pascoe and Cram, 1977;
Poulin, 1992; Sures and Siddall, 1999). Since the giant kidney worm parasite, Dioctophyme
renale, produces pathophysiological changes in both the liver through which it migrates and
the kidney which it ultimately occupies, and these two organs represent the primary sites of
metal accumulation in the vertebrate body, one might expect measurable changes in the tissue
distribution of metals within the host animal following infection.
The development and life cycle of the giant kidney worm have been summarized by
Anderson (2000), and are depicted in Figure 1. Mink (Mustela vison) are the preferred
definitive host for D. renale, although other carnivorous species have occasionally been
infected (including otter Lontra canadensis, marten Martes americana, short-tailed weasel
Mustela erminea, long-tailed weasel M. frenata, wolverine Gulo luscus and Gulo gulo, coyote
Canis latrans, wolf C. lupus, dog C. familiaris, red fox Vulpes vulpes, bear Ursus
americanus, raccoon Procyon loto, and coati Nasua nasua). Adult kidney worms typically
occupy the right kidney (Figs. 2a and 2b) but on occasion have been observed unrestricted
within the abdominal cavity or entwined within the liver of their host (Figure 2d). At least one
male and one female worm (Figure 2f) must be present in the same kidney for a fertile
infection to occur and for the life cycle to continue. Fertilized eggs are released from the
female worm, passed down the ureter (which remains open post-infection) to the urinary
bladder and voided with the urine. If the eggs are released into water and reach appropriate
temperatures (approximately 14 to 30 C), they embryonate and are frequently consumed by
the aquatic oligochaete Lumbriculus variegatus. The larvae moult twice in this intermediate
host, reaching the infective third larval stage. Suitable paratenic hosts (frogs Rana
catesbeiana, R. clamitans and R. septentrionalis, pumpkinseed fish Lepomis gibbosus, brown
bullheads Ictalurus nebulosus and black bullheads I. melas) eat the parasitized oligochaete,
but no futher development of D. renale larvae takes place in these paratenic hosts.

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

189

Definitive Host
(final moult and growth to adult
worm occupying right kidney)

Incidental direct
transfer via infected
drinking water

Eggs released with


urine into water

Unembryonated
Eggs

Paratenic Hosts

Intermediate Host
(Lumbriculus variegatus)
(eggs hatch and develop to
infective 3rd stage larvae)

Figure 1. Development and transmission of the giant kidney worm, Dioctophyme renale.

Although it is possible for mink to become infected through the incidental consumption
of parasitized oligochaetes during feeding or drinking, the above-mentioned paratenic hosts
are frequent items in the minks diet, and thus typically serve as the vectors through which the
parasite is transferred to mink.
Once ingested, third-stage larvae penetrate the stomach wall of the definitive host and
develop to the adult stage before migrating through the liver. The adult worms make their
way to the right kidney, which they penetrate and ultimately excavate by destroying the
functional cortical and medullary tissues as they grow to full size. Only a tough thickened
capsule or cast (Figure 2c) remains of the right kidney, serving to encase the mature D. renale
worms and in most cases a bony spicule (or staghorn). The parasitized kidney with its
occupants and component structures is commonly referred to as a kidney cyst. The spicule is
usually embedded in the lumenal surface of the dorsal wall of the kidney cast; although size,
shape and colour have been shown to vary considerably (Dhaliwal and Taylor, 2000), the
basic form is a flat plate on the dorsal side, with finger-like projections or spicules radiating
ventrally (Figure 2c). Histological examination of the spicule has revealed osteoblasts within
lacunae and canaliculi making up the Haversian system of true replacement bone (McNeil,
1948; Mace, 1976). The plate edges and spicule projections have been found to contain
osteoclasts and consist of hyaline cartilage (McNeil, 1948). The left kidney of the infected
animal hypertrophies (50 to 100% by weight; Figure 2e) to compensate for the loss in
function of the right kidney.

190

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

Figure 2. Dioctophyme renale infection in mink: a) ventral view of kidneys showing right renal cyst of
infected animal b) cyst opened showing several worms present c) cast with bony spicule (staghorn)
embedded, after removing worms d) free-floating abdominal infection showing portions of 3 worms
present among visceral organs e) hypertrophied left kidney of infected animal (on right) vs control f) 3
male worms (top) and 3 female specimens (below) removed from renal cyst (bottom). Magnifications:
a), b) and d) = 0.75X actual size; c) and e) = 1.25X; f) = 0.38X.

In the Sudbury-area, the prevalence of D. renale infection in mink is approximately 50%


(N. Schaffner and G. Parker, unpublished data) and, due to local ore-mining/smelting
operations over the past 125 years, wildlife living within the influence of the area-wide
smelters are exposed to significantly elevated metal levels in their environment (Wren et al.,
1988; Capodagli and Parker, 2007).
Patterns of metal uptake and accumulation in mink living under these conditions of
environmental pollution and additionally inflicted with the invasive giant kidney worm
parasite are currently unknown. As part of an on-going program examining toxic metals and
endoparasites in Ontario wildlife species, the opportunity arose to investigate patterns of
metal distribution in wild Sudbury-area mink populations infected with the parasite. The
objectives of this investigation were as follows:

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

191

1) to determine the effects of D. renale infection (at high and low intensities) on the
uptake and renal-hepatic distribution of toxic metals (cadmium, nickel and lead) in
wild field-trapped mink.
2) to quantify the extent to which these toxic metals are accumulated within the right
kidney cyst and its component structures (namely the parasitic worms, bony spicule
and cast tissues) of the infected animal.
3) to compare the extent of metal uptake and accumulation in male versus female
specimens of the parasite.
4) to examine the extent to which metals are accumulated in the osseous spicule of the
infected animal relative to concentrations occurring in skeletal (femur) bone.
5) to determine the extent to which renal-hepatic metal levels and D. renale infection,
either singly or in concert, may influence the health and physical fitness of mink,
through an assessment of the effects of these perceived insults on selected
morphometric measures and fat reserves of the animal.

MATERIALS AND METHODS


Mink carcasses were obtained from local fur trappers in the Sudbury District of Northern
Ontario during the October to December trapping seasons of 1997, 1998 and 1999. Metal
fallout and environmental contaminant conditions prevailing within the Sudbury Basin, home
to intensive mining-smelting operations over the past 125 years, have been described
elsewhere (Capodagli and Parker, 2007). A total of 30 adult male specimens were selected
based on the intensity of giant kidney worm (Dioctophyme renale) infection present. Three
groups were formed; non-infected mink (n=14), those infected with a single worm (n=8) and
those infected with 4-6 worms (n=8).
Assignment to the adult (>1 yr) male cohort was based on visual inspection of the
genitals/gonads and the pattern of temporal muscle coalescence on the dorsal aspect of the
skull (E. Addison (pers. comm.). Prior to dissection, the animals were completely thawed and
morphometric measurements taken, including total peltless mass (to nearest 0.1 g), body
length (from nose to tail base), total body + tail length (nose to tip of tail) and neck
circumference (all to nearest 0.5 cm). Subcutaneous fat deposits in the groin and scapular
regions were subjectively rated as high (3), medium (2) or low (1).
During necropsy, the liver, heart, spleen, kidneys, gonads, omental fat, thoracic postcardinal fat deposit and abdominal mid-ventral fat deposit were removed and weighed (to
nearest 0.1 g) immediately upon removal to minimize the effects of dehydration. Livers,
femurs and kidneys (or their component parts in the case of infected animals) were retained
for determination of metal content. In the case of infected subjects, the right kidney cyst was
opened and each individual worm was removed, counted, weighed (to the nearest 0.1 g) and
measured (to the nearest mm). Individual D. renale worms were sexed by the
presence/absence of the prominent bell-shaped bursa at the caudal end and according to
differences in body length and diameter (females ranged from 16-50 cm in length and were
approximately 0.5 cm in diameter, while males ranged from 8-17 cm in length and were 0.25
cm in diameter) (Fyvie, 1971). Bony spicules were carefully dissected from the kidney cast of
infected mink and kept in small airtight plastic cups at 20 C. Kidneys, liver, femur, kidney

192

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

cast and worms were immediately packaged in individual polyethylene (Whirlpak-Nasco)


bags and restored at 20 C until metal analysis could be performed.
All glassware was washed using SparkleenTM dish detergent, rinsed, passed through a
20% HCl bath followed by two deionized distilled water baths and allowed to air dry before
use. The right kidney, left kidney, liver, kidney cast, shaft of the right femur, individual whole
worms and bony spicule were dehydrated in petri dishes in a drying oven at 60 C until
constant weight was attained (approximately 3 days). A 2.0 ( 0.005) g sub-sample of dried
liver, the shaft of the right femur and the entire sample of each of the remaining tissues were
weighed into ceramic crucibles and placed in a muffle furnace. The temperature in the
furnace was increased at a rate of 0.7 C/minute to 150 C and held for 10 hours, and then
raised by 0.3 C/minute to 500 C, where it was held for 15 hours. The samples were allowed
to cool to room temperature before digestion began.
The ash was then transferred to sterile 15 ml polypropylene centrifuge tubes and a three
ml aliquot of 2.5 N reagent grade HNO3 was added to the ash. The centrifuge tubes were
capped and vortexed, and the samples then placed in an oven at 60 C to digest for 20 hours.
The samples were then removed from the drying oven, vortexed again to break up any
precipitate and left to stand overnight to ensure complete digestion. The samples were then
centrifuged at full speed (approximately 5000 G) for five minutes and the supernatant was
extracted with disposable glass Pasteur pipettes and transferred into acid-washed test tubes.
Where necessary, the samples were diluted (5 fold) with 20% reagent grade HCl before being
analyzed by flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry for Cd, Ni and Pb content using a
Perkin Elmer Spectrophotometer (Model 703). Procedural blanks were included in each
sample run to control for metals introduced by the digestion process. Metal concentrations
were calculated and expressed as gg-1 dry weight. Tissue metal burdens (expressed as g)
were derived by multiplying metal concentration by the total tissue dry weight. To determine
recovery rates and assess the reliability of the analytical procedures, certified reference
materials (oyster tissue from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and citrus
leaves from the National Bureau of Standards) were also subjected to the above procedure. As
recovery rates (112 to 131%; n=3 per element) were generally deemed acceptable, tissue
concentrations were left unadjusted.
Where violations of normal distribution and/or homogeneity of variance in the data could
not be rectified with standard transformations, the data were statistically evaluated using both
parametric and non-parametric procedures. Organ weights and fat deposit measures were
standardized for body size using the formula:
Standardized measure = organ (or fat) weight x individual body length / mean body length

RESULTS
Body and Organ Weights
Dried weights of the primary organs of metal accumulation as well as standard body
weights for the three infection groups (uninfected mink, mink infected with one kidney worm
and mink infected with 4-6 worms) are reported in Table 1.

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

193

Table 1. Body weights and dried organ weights (g) in mink infected with D. renale
at different intensities (0, 1 or 4-6 worms). Values are means followed by standard
error in parenthesis
Infection Status
Organ

0 worms (n=14)

1 worm (n=8)

4-6 worms (n=8)

Liver

10.55

(0.43)

10.01

(0.35)

10.25 (0.72)

Left kidney

0.78

(0.02)

1.23

(0.08)

1.32

(0.05)

Right kidney/cyst

0.73

(0.03)

0.88

(0.15)

2.26

(0.23)

a) cast

0.34

(0.03)

0.75

(0.06)

b) spicule

0.10

(0.04)

0.19

(0.06)

c) worm(s)

0.44

(0.13)

1.32

(0.17)

Cyst components:

Body weight

746.68 (24.43) a

766.12 (22.70) a

715.27 (43.39) a

Within organs, mean values bearing the same letter are not significantly different (p > 0.05) as indicated
by a One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test.

There were no significant differences in mean dry liver weights or overall body weights
among the three infection groups. However, substantial weight differences occurred among
the kidneys. The left kidneys of mink infected with either 1 worm or 4-6 worms were
approximately 58% and 69% heavier, respectively, than the left kidney of uninfected mink.
The right kidney cysts that developed in infected mink were likewise heavier than the intact
right kidney of non-infected animals. This increase in weight amounted to 21% and 210% in
the single worm and 4-6 worm infections, respectively. Despite the 2.6-fold weight difference
between single and multiple worm cysts, the contributions of individual structural
components were relatively uniform: cast tissue comprised 38.6 versus 33.2%, spicule 11.4
versus 8.4%, and worms 50.0 versus 58.4%, respectively.

Cadmium Levels
Cadmium burdens and concentrations in the liver, kidneys, kidney cast, spicule and giant
kidney worms of mink with varying intensities of D. renale infection are presented in Table
2. There was an overall increase in cadmium burden in infected mink over uninfected mink.
Together renal and hepatic burdens approximated 7 g in uninfected mink whereas infected
mink averaged 13 to 17 g. The elevated cadmium burdens in parasitized mink were
manifested in both the liver and the uninfected left kidney (Figure 3). On average, liver
burdens were elevated 2-fold and left kidney burdens by 3.6 fold over values seen in noninfected animals. Cadmium burdens present in the right kidney (non-infected animals) or its
component structures (cast, spicule and worms) in infected animals did not differ significantly
among the groups (Table 2). Thus the amount of cadmium that was present within the

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

194

confines of the renal cyst appeared to remain unchanged from that present in the right kidney
prior to infection, and was distributed among the component tissues/structures (Figure 3).
Table 2. Cadmium levels in body tissues of mink infected with D. renale at different
intensities. Values are means followed by standard error in parenthesis
CADMIUM BURDEN (g)
Infection Status
Organ

0 worms (n=14)

1 worm (n=8)

4-6 worms (n=8)

Liver

4.74

(0.55)

10.98

(2.61)

7.07

(1.08)

a,b

Left kidney

1.23

(0.23)

4.89

(1.41)

4.02

(0.88)

Right kidney/cyst

1.15

(0.21)

1.07

(0.18)

1.63

(0.25)

a) cast

0.40

(0.10)

0.35

(0.05)

b) spicule

0.18

(0.04)

0.26

(0.05)

c) worm(s)

0.48

(0.15)

1.02

(0.21)

Cyst components:

All above
organs/components 7.29
(0.99)
a
16.94
(4.06)
b
12.75 (2.43) a,b
combined
Within organs, mean values bearing the same letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as
indicated by a One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test.
CADMIUM CONCENTRATION (gg-1)
Infection Status
Organ

0 worms (n=14)

1 worm (n=8)

4-6 worms (n=8)

Liver

0.47

(0.07)

1.14

(0.30)

0.70

(0.10)

a,b

Left kidney

1.59

(0.33)

4.10

(1.30)

3.03

(0.66)

a,b

Right
kidney/cyst

1.62

(0.31)

1.66

(0.54)

0.72

(0.09)

a) cast

1.43

(0.57)

0.47

(0.07)

b) spicule

4.33

(1.36)

1.82

(0.23)

c) worm(s)

1.73

(0.55)

0.80

(0.14)

Cyst components:

Within organs, mean values bearing the same letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as indicated
by Kruskal-Wallis One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test.

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

195

Liver

20

Left kidney
Right kidney/cyst
Cyst components:

CADMIUM BURDEN (g)

15

Cast
Spicule
Worm(s)

10

B
A, B

0 worms

1 worm

4-6 worms

INFECTION STATUS

Figure 3. Cadmium burden (g) in organs of mink infected with D. renale at different intensities.
Within organs, values bearing a common letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as indicated by
a One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test. Bars indicate 1 S.E. of the
mean composite burden.
6

Liver
Left kidney

CADMIUM CONCENTRATION (g g-1)

Right kidney/cyst
Cyst components:
4

Cast
Spicule
Worm(s)

2
A,B
A

A B

B
B

A
A,B

A
0 worms

1 worm

4-6 worms

INFECTION STATUS

Figure 4. Cadmium concentration (gg-1 dry wt) in organs of mink infected with D. renale at different
intensities. Within organs, values bearing a common letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as
indicated by a Kruskal-Wallis One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test. Bars
indicate 1 S.E. of the mean.

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

196

While cadmium burdens of the left kidney increased 3 to 4-fold as a result of infection
(Table 2), organ hypertrophy (58 - 69%; Table 1) reduced mean tissue concentrations to
values of 3 - 4 gg-1 (Table 2). Nevertheless these values were significantly (1.9 to 2.6-fold)
higher than concentrations present in the left kidneys of non-infected subjects. Within the
right kidney cyst of infected animals, cadmium was most concentrated in the bony spicule
(mean = 4.33 1.36 and 1.82 0.23 gg-1; Figure 4). Worm concentrations averaged 1.73
0.55 and 0.80 0.14 gg-1 in the single and multiple worm groups, while cast tissues
averaged 1.43 0.57 and 0.47 0.07 gg-1 in these two respective groups. For all tissues
examined, mean cadmium concentration values tended to be higher among animals infected
with single versus multiple worms; however, only in the case of the right kidney cyst and cast
tissue did these differences reach statistical significance (p = 0.007 and 0.012, respectively).

Nickel Levels
Tissue nickel burdens and concentrations for the same three groups of mink are reported
in Table 3. Similar to cadmium, nickel burdens were likewise greater in the combined renal
and hepatic tissue of infected mink compared to non-infected mink. Unlike cadmium
however, the liver was not responsible for any of the increase in nickel burdens of the
parasitized animal. The elevated nickel burden was distributed within the renal tissues of the
animals, primarily the parasitized right kidney cyst. Approximately twice the nickel burden
was present in the left kidney of infected mink, whereas 4 and 8 times more nickel were
observed in the right kidney cyst of mink with 1 and 4-6 worm infections respectively, over
burdens present in respective uninfected kidneys (Figure 5).
Table 3. Nickel levels in body tissues of mink infected with D. renale at different
intensities. Values are means followed by standard error in parenthesis
NICKEL BURDEN (g)
Infection Status
Organ

0 worms (n=14)

1 worm (n=7)

4-6 worms (n=8)

Liver

4.47

(0.28)

5.14

(0.67)

4.63

(0.50)

Left kidney

0.52

(0.07)

1.03

(0.21)

0.98

(0.10)

Right kidney/cyst

0.52

(0.08)

2.10

(0.50)

a,b

4.08

(0.51)

a) cast

1.16

(0.38)

1.44

(0.26)

b) spicule

0.71

(0.20)

1.03

(0.21)

c) worm(s)

0.60

(0.19)

1.78

(0.78)

7.71

(1.13)

a,b

10.19

(0.86)

Cyst components:

All above organs/components


5.49
combined

(0.33)

Within organs, mean values bearing the same letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as
indicated by a One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test.

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

197

NICKEL CONCENTRATION (gg-1)


Infection Status
Organ

0 worms (n=14)

1 worm (n=7)

4-6 worms (n=8)

Liver

0.43

(0.02)

0.51 (0.05)

0.45

(0.03)

Left
kidney

0.65

(0.08)

0.83 (0.14)

0.75

(0.08)

Right kidney/cyst

0.72

(0.10)

2.21 (0.36)

1.88

(0.19)

a) cast

3.73 (1.50)

1.95

(0.32)

b) spicule

11.47 (2.30)

7.78

(1.21)

c) worm(s)

0.97 (0.19)

1.47

(0.22)

Cyst components:

Within organs, mean values bearing the same letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as indicated
by Kruskal-Wallis One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test.
12

Liver
Left kidney
10

Right kidney/cyst
Cyst components:
Cast
Spicule
Worm(s)

NICKEL BURDEN (g)

C
C

B
4

A
2

0 worms

1 worm

4-6 worms

INFECTION STATUS

Figure 5. Nickel burden (g) in organs of mink infected with D. renale at different intensities. Within
organs, values bearing a common letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as indicated by a Oneway Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test. Bars indicate 1 S.E. of the mean
composite burden.

Mean hepatic nickel concentrations ranged between 0.43 0.02 and 0.51 0.05 gg-1,
and did not differ significantly among the three infection groups (Table 3). Similarly,
concentration values in the left kidney were comparable across the three infection groups,
indicating that the infection-induced increase in nickel loads within this organ were

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

198

proportional to the degree of hypertrophy undergone. Within the right kidney cyst, the
greatest concentration of nickel occurred within the spicules (mean = 11.5 2.3 and 7.8 1.2
gg-1 in single worm and multiple worm infections respectively; Figure 6).
14

Liver
Left kidney

NICKEL CONCENTRATION (g g-1)

12

Right kidney/cyst
Cyst components:

10

Cast
Spicule
Worm(s)

A
6

A
A

A A

B
B

A
A

A
B

0 worms

1 worm

4-6 worms

INFECTION STATUS

Figure 6. Nickel concentration (gg-1 dry wt) in organs of mink infected with D. renale at different
intensities. Within organs, values bearing a common letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as
indicated by a Kruskal-Wallis One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test. Bars
indicate 1 S.E. of the mean.

Worm concentrations averaged 0.97 0.19 and 1.47 0.22 gg-1 while cast
concentrations averaged 3.7 1.5 and 2.0 0.3 gg-1 respectively in the two infection
groups. Relative to non-infected animals, tissue nickel levels (burdens and concentrations) in
infected animals were more variable with few statistically significant differences occurring
between single-worm and multiple-worm groups.

Lead Levels
Lead burden and concentration values in mink from the three infection intensity groups
are presented in Table 4. Total lead burdens followed the same trend seen for both cadmium
and nickel in that combined kidney and liver lead loads were greater in mink infected with D.
renale when compared to uninfected mink. Elevations averaged 21% higher in mink infected
with 1 worm and 69% in those with 4-6 worms. As seen for nickel, the infection-induced
increase in lead burden was attributable to enhanced deposition in the renal tissues. For the
left kidney, lead burdens were elevated 1.6-fold (one worm infections) and 1.9-fold (4-6
worm infections) higher than values seen in the non-parasitized animal. The majority of the
increase in total lead burden arose from the right kidney components, which showed

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

199

elevations of more than 3-fold for 1-worm infections and 7-fold for 4-6 worm infections
(Figure 7). Although noticeably higher, lead concentrations in the liver and left kidney
followed the same trend as nickel in that mean tissue concentrations failed to differ
significantly across the three treatment groups (Table 4).
Table 4. Lead levels in body tissues of mink infected with D. renale at different
intensities. Values are means followed by standard error in parenthesis
LEAD BURDEN (g)
Infection Status
Organ

0 worms (n=14)

1 worm (n=8)

4-6 worms (n=8)

Liver

10.28 (0.60) a

10.23

(0.44)

11.72

(1.18)

Left kidney

0.95

(0.05) a

1.54

(0.07)

1.83

(0.17)

Right kidney/cyst

0.93

(0.07) a

3.37

(0.73)

6.73

(1.03)

a) cast

0.54

(0.07)

1.11

(0.14)

b) spicule

2.19

(0.68)

3.44

(0.77)

c) worm(s)

0.64

(0.14)

2.15

(0.30)

Cyst components:

All above organs/components


12.50 (0.61) a
15.13
(0.87) b
21.15 (1.13) c
combined
Within organs, mean values bearing the same letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as
indicated by a One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test.
LEAD CONCENTRATION (gg-1)
Infection Status
Organ

0 worms (n=14)

1 worm (n=8)

4-6 worms (n=8)

Liver

0.98

(0.04) a

1.02

(0.02)

1.13

(0.07)

Left
kidney

1.19

(0.05) a

1.26

(0.05)

1.40

(0.14)

Right kidney/cyst

1.29

(0.10) a

4.07

(0.71)

2.93

(0.29)

a) cast

1.68

(0.27)

1.43

(0.10)

b) spicule

40.50

(12.08) a

24.08

(2.84)

c) worm(s)

1.78

(0.19)

1.95

(0.10)

Cyst components:

Within organs, mean values bearing the same letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as indicated
by Kruskal-Wallis One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test.

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

200
Liver
Left kidney
20

Right kidney/cyst

LEAD BURDEN (g)

Cyst components:
Cast
Spicule
Worm(s)

15

C
B

10

A
5

1 worm

0 worms

4-6 worms

INFECTION STATUS

Figure 7. Lead burden (g) in organs of mink infected with D. renale at different intensities. Within
organs, values bearing a common letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as indicated by a Oneway Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test. Bars indicate 1 S.E. of the mean
composite burden.
Liver
50

Left kidney
Right kidney/cyst
Cyst components:

LEAD CONCENTRATION (g g-1)

40

Cast
Spicule
Worm(s)

30

20

A
A
10

C
A

B
A

0 worms

1 worms

4-6 worms

INFECTION STATUS

Figure 8. Lead concentration (gg-1 dry wt) in organs of mink infected with D. renale at different
intensities. Within organs, values bearing a common letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as
indicated by a Kruskal-Wallis One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test. Bars
indicate 1 S.E. of the mean.

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

201

Among components of the right kidney cyst, the bony spicule concentrated lead to the
greatest extent with mean concentrations reaching 40 12.1 and 24 2.8 gg-1 for 1 worm
and 4-6 worm infections respectively (Figure 8). Concentrations in cast tissues and in worms
averaged less than 2 gg-1. Although burden values in the right kidney cyst were
substantially higher in the more heavily infected group, concentration values in the structural
components of the cyst did not differ significantly between 1 worm and 4-6 worm infection
groups.

Proportional Deposition among Tissues


To better control for variability in levels of uptake among individuals, the relative
distribution of body metal burdens between the liver and renal tissues/structures was
calculated and expressed on a percentage basis for both infected and non-infected animals
(Table 5). Data available from two mink infected with a single D. renale worm in the
abdomen (free-floating infection) and four mink with a single worm in the abdomen and one
in the right kidney (double infection) have been included in Table 5 to represent two
additional infection groups. The proportions of cadmium, nickel and lead deposited in renal
and hepatic tissues of mink with a single abdominal infection were similar to the proportions
deposited in non-infected mink. Of the total metal burden in mink with a free-floating
infection and in non-infected mink, liver tissue accumulated 67 and 68% of the cadmium, 79
and 82 % of the nickel and 83 and 85% of the lead, respectively. Sixteen percent of the total
cadmium, between 8 and 9% of the total nickel and 7-8% of the total lead was deposited in
each kidney of non-parasitized mink and mink with an abdominal infection.
Although there was a two-fold increase in total cadmium burden in mink infected with 1
worm over uninfected mink (Figure 3), the proportion deposited in the liver remained
constant at 65 to 68% (Table 5). Slightly less cadmium (59% and 57%) was deposited in the
livers of mink with double and 4-6 worm infections. Approximately 30% of the total body
cadmium was found in the functioning renal tissue, regardless of infection status. In noninfected and abdominally infected mink, this was equally distributed between the right and
left kidneys, while in mink parasitized in the right kidney, all 30% accumulated in the lone
functioning left kidney, regardless of the number of worms present. In single worm and
double worm renal infections, only 8 and 9% of the total cadmium was found in the resultant
kidney cyst whereas 14% was accumulated in the cyst of animals harbouring 4-6 worms. A
higher proportion of cadmium was deposited in worms from multiple worm infections (8%)
versus single worms (3%). At all infection intensities, 3% was deposited in the kidney cast
and 1-3% was sequestered in the bony spicule. When present, abdominal worms contained
only 1-2% of the cadmium burden.
In contrast to cadmium, nickel burdens in the liver did not differ with varying degrees of
infection intensity (Figure 5). However, the proportion of total nickel burden deposited in the
liver did change. In the non-parasitized group, approximately 82% of the total nickel burden
accumulated in the liver. Subsequent to infection, the proportion of total nickel found in the
liver dropped to 62% in mink infected with 1 renal worm, 44% in mink with a double
infection and 46% in mink infected with 4-6 worms.

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

202

Table 5. Relative distribution of metals among tissues, expressed as a percentage of total


renal-hepatic burden, in mink infected with D. renale at different intensities
Metal

Infection Status
0 worms
Organ

(n=14)

1 worm
Abdomen
(n=2)

2 worms

4-6 worms

Right kidney Abdomen + right Right kidney


(n=8)
kidney (n=4)
(n=8)

Cd
Liver

68 b

67 a,b

65 a,b

59 a,b

57 a

Left kidney

16 a

16 a

27 b

31 b

29 b

Right kidney/cyst

16 c

15 c

8a

9 a,b

Cyst components
a) cast

3a

3a

3a

b) spicule

1a

3a

2a

c) worm(s)

3a

3a

8b

Abdominal worm

82 c

79 c

62 b

44 a

46 a

14 b,c

Ni
Liver
Left kidney

9 a,b

9 a,b

12 b

7a

10 a,b

Right kidney/cyst

8a

8a

25 b

47 c

44 c

Cyst components
a) cast

10 a

27 b

14 a

b) spicule

10 a

7a

11 a

c) worm(s)

5a

13 a,b

19 b

Abdominal worm

85 b

83 b

68 a

67 a

58 a

Pb
Liver
Left kidney

8 a,b

7a

10 c

9 b,c

9 b,c

Right kidney/cyst

8a

7a

21 b

21 b

32 b

Cyst components
a) cast

4a

3a

5a

b) spicule

13 a

14 a

17 a

c) worm(s)

4a

3a

11 b

Abdominal worm

Within organs, values bearing the same letter are not significantly different (p 0.05) as indicated by a
One-way Analysis of Variance and Duncans Multiple Range Test.

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

203

The relative proportion of nickel deposited in the left kidney increased only slightly in
one worm infections, while that accumulating in the infected right kidney cyst reached as
much as 25% and 44% of the body burden in 1 worm and multiple worm animals
respectively. The left kidney of animals with an abdominal worm plus a right kidney worm
did not differ from that noted for non-infected mink, however 47% of the total nickel burden
was deposited in the right kidney cyst. In the case of single worm infections, 10% of the total
nickel was deposited in the kidney cast and 5% in the developing worm, whereas in mink
with 4-6 worms 14% was observed in the right kidney cast and 19% was taken up by the
worms. Mink with both an abdominal and right kidney worm accumulated 27% of the total
nickel in the cast and 13% in the right kidney worm. The spicule accounted for 10, 7 and 11
% of body nickel burdens in single, double and 4-6 worm infections respectively.
Relative proportions of lead deposited in renal and hepatic tissues paralleled those
observed for nickel. Eighty-five percent of the total body burden of lead was deposited in the
liver of uninfected mink, while only 68%, 67% and 58% were accumulated in the hepatic
tissue of mink with 1, 2 and 4-6 worm infections respectively. In response to infection,
proportions in the left kidney increased only slightly whereas total body proportions
accumulating in the infected right kidney cyst reached as much as 21% for both single and
double infections and 32% for the 4-6 worm infected animals. In each group, more than half
of the lead in the right kidney cyst was sequestered within the bony spicule. The worms
accounted for 4%, 3% and 11% and the cast tissues for 4%, 3% and 5% of the total lead
burden present in single worm, double worm and 4-6 worm infections respectively.

Gender Comparisons
A comparison of metal levels in male versus female D. renale taken from mink with
varying infection intensities is presented in Table 6. Dry weights for male and for female
worms did not vary with infection status as indicated by One-way Analyses of Variance
(males p = 0.46 and females p = 0.14). For multiple worm infections, metal levels in male and
in female worms occupying the same cyst were averaged and entered in a 2-way Analysis of
Co-Variance to assess the effects of infection status and worm gender while covarying for the
effects of total worm weight in the infected cyst. Total worm weight in each cyst was not
significantly correlated with levels of any of the three metals examined (p > 0.05), thus
indicating that competition between male and female parasites within the same cyst had not
affected metal uptake by the resident worms. For all three metals, overall mean burdens (i.e.
in all worms combined regardless of infection status) tended to be higher in female compared
to male worms by a factor of approximately 3 (Table 6). When differences in body mass were
factored in by calculating concentration values, significant gender differences were observed
only for lead, with males showing approximately 50% higher levels.

Femur versus Spicule Levels


The geometric means for metal concentrations in femur sub-samples and in the spicules
of parasitized animals were examined for the three infection groups and are presented in
Table 7.

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

204

Table 6. Metal levels in male and female D. renale taken from mink with varying
infection intensities. Values are means followed by standard error in parenthesis
Element

Infection Status
Variable

1 worm
( n=4, n=4)

4 worms a
56 worms a
( n=3, n=4) ( n=4, n=3)

Sex

All groups
combined
( n=10, n=11)

Cd
Burden (g)
Male

0.29 (0.09)
*

Female

0.07 (0.01)
**

0.15 (0.04)
*

0.18 (0.04)
*

0.69 (0.26)

0.34 (0.03)

0.57 (0.14)

0.53 (0.10)

Male

2.27 (0.85)

0.60 (0.13)

0.97 (0.25)

1.34 (0.37)

Female

1.20 (0.70)

0.62 (0.10)

1.14 (0.17)

0.97 (0.25)

0.11 (0.04)

0.16 (0.03)

0.27 (0.03)

0.19 (0.03)

Concentration
(gg-1)

Ni
Burden (g)
Male

**
Female

**

0.78 (0.20)

0.55 (0.06)

0.55 (0.16)

0.63 (0.09)

Male

0.82 (0.35)

1.36 (0.24)

1.94 (0.38)

1.43 (0.23)

Female

1.08 (0.25)

0.96 (0.10)

1.10 (0.28)

1.04 (0.11)

Male

0.29 (0.02)

0.29 (0.03)

0.35 (0.07)

0.31 (0.02)

Female

0.99 (0.09)

0.81 (0.07)

0.62 (0.006)

0.82 (0.06)

2.14 (0.17)

2.43 (0.21)

2.20 (0.24)

2.24 (0.12)

Concentration
(gg-1)

Pb
Burden (g)

**

**

Concentration
(gg-1)
Male

*
Female
a

1.41 (0.20)

1.42 (0.11)

**
1.30 (0.14)

1.38 (0.08)

In multiple-worm infections, values represent the average for all worms of same sex present within the
cyst. Gender differences assessed by 2-way Analysis of Variance while covarying for total worm
weight within cyst; p < 0.05 *; p 0.01 **.

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

205

Table 7. Metal concentrations (gg-1 dry wt) in femurs and spicules of mink infected
with D. renale at different intensities. Values are geometric means (presented as antilogs
of the log10 transformed data) followed by standard error in parenthesis
Tissue
Metal Infection Group
Cd

Ni

Pb

(n)

Femur

Spicule

0 worms

(12)

0.87

(+0.035, -0.033)

1 worm

(8 and 6)

0.94

(+0.038, -0.036)

<

2.14 (+0.49, -0.40)

4-6 worms

(8)

0.92

(+0.040, -0.039)

<

1.70 (+0.25, -0.22)

0 worms

(12)

3.39

(+0.12, -0.12)

1 worm

(8 and 6)

3.47

(+0.098, -0.094)

<

9.12 (+1.97, -1.62)

4-6 worms

(8)

3.55

(+0.12, -0.12)

<

7.24 (+1.25, -1.06)

0 worms

(12)

10.71

(+0.30, -0.29)

1 worm

(8 and 6)

11.22

(+0.29, -0.28)

<

23.99 (+2.68, -2.41)

4-6 worms

(8)

11.22

(+0.37, -0.36)

<

22.91 (+2.91, -2.59)

Equalities assessed by Paired-Samples T-Test; p < 0.01.

There were no differences in metal levels across the infection groups in either the femur
or the spicule for any of the three metals investigated as indicated by One-way Analyses of
Variance, and Analyses of Co-variance (p > 0.05) with spicule dry weight as the co-variant.
Thus, infection intensity had not significantly influenced the uptake of metals in either bone
tissue. The data were log10 transformed to accommodate for the non-linear relationship
between tissue metal concentration and spicule dry weight before a Paired-Samples T-test
was performed. Tissue comparisons revealed that the bony spicules of infected mink were
consistently higher in concentrations of cadmium, nickel and lead than were the femurs of the
same animals. Spicules from single worm infections concentrated 2.6 times more nickel, 2.3
times more cadmium and 2.1 times more lead than the femurs from the same group of mink.
Similarly, in multiple worm infections, spicule metal concentrations were approximately
twice those found in the femurs.

Effects on Body Condition


The Principal Component Analysis of the condition measures in mink for the three
infection groups (summarized in Table 8) is presented in Table 9. Four factors, explaining a
cumulative 73% of the variance, indicated shared sources of variance within the condition
measures. Abdomimal mid-ventral fat weight, thoracic post-cardinal fat weight and neck
circumference shared over 56% of their variance with Principal Component 1. These
measures were all correlated positively with the first component, indicating a positive
relationship with one another.

206

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

Table 8. Body measures (morphometric measures, organ weights and fat deposits) in
adult male mink infected with D. renale at different intensities. Values are means
followed by standard error in parenthesis
Infection Status
0 worms
(n=14)

Measure

1 worm
(n=8)

All mink
combined
(n=30)

4-6 worms
(n=8)

Morphometric measures:
Peltless body weight (g)

742.81 (22.42)

766.12

(22.70)

715.27 (43.39)

741.68 (16.48)

Total body + tail length (cm)

57.86

(0.69)

57.93

(0.48)

55.88

(0.85)

57.33 (0.44)

Body length (cm)

38.64

(0.55)

39.06

(0.49)

37.75

(0.62)

38.51 (0.34)

Neck circumference (cm)

11.88

(0.21)

12.04

(0.35)

11.75

(0.27)

11.89 (0.15)

Liver

43.19

(2.36)

37.67

(1.23)

40.40

(3.22)

40.97 (1.45)

Right kidney

3.61

(0.14)

4.20

(0.90)

14.20

(1.94)

6.59

(1.01)

Left kidney

3.74

(0.14)

5.69

(0.29)

6.04

(0.43)

4.87

(0.25)

Spleen

3.11

(0.40)

2.73

(0.28)

3.00

(0.38)

2.98

(0.22)

Heart

8.65

(0.33)

9.05

(0.48)

8.47

(0.54)

8.71

(0.24)

Gonads (combined)

0.38

(0.02)

0.66

(0.12)

0.54

(0.06)

0.51

(0.05)

Omental fat

3.54

(0.50)

3.11

(0.20)

4.08

(0.27)

3.55

(0.26)

Thoracic post-cardinal fat

0.20

(0.02)

0.16

(0.03)

0.19

(0.01)

0.19

(0.01)

Abdominal mid-ventral fat

0.64

(0.10)

0.58

(0.07)

0.59

(0.08)

0.61

(0.05)

Organ weights (g):

Fat measures (g):

Fat measures (1=low, 2=moderate, 3=high):


Subcutaneous fat

2.14

(0.14)

1.88

(0.23)

2.38

(0.18)

2.13

(0.10)

Groin fat

2.21

(0.15)

1.88

(0.23)

2.50

(0.19)

2.20

(0.11)

Accommodating for less variance but nevertheless indicating shared variance with the
first component were heart weight, body length, peltless body weight, scapular fat, groin fat
and spleen weight, which were also positively related. The second component presented
shared sources of variance for total body + tail length, body length, omental fat weight,
peltless body weight, total worm number and spleen weight. In this case, omental fat weight,
total worm number and spleen weight were negatively correlated to the second component
indicating that as total body + tail length, body length and peltless body weight increased,
omental fat weight, total number of D. renale worms and spleen weight decreased. The third
component accommodated for shared variance in liver weight, scapular fat, groin fat and
peltless body weight, which were all positively associated. The fourth and final component

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

207

indicated that right and left gonad weights, spleen weights and total worm number shared
common variance; however, spleen weight was negatively associated, and thus decreased as
gonad weight and total number of worms increased.
Table 9. Results of the Principal Component Analysis for body condition measures in
adult male mink with varying intensities of D. renale infection (n=21)
Variables

Correlation Coefficients
Component 1

Abdominal mid-ventral fat wt*

0.83

Thoracic post-cardinal fat wt*

0.80

Neck circumference

0.75

Heart wt*

0.48

Component 2

Total body + tail length


Body length

0.35

0.83
-0.71

0.46

Total worm number

0.58

0.50

-0.54

Liver wt*

0.49
0.86

Scapular fat

0.40

0.85

Groin fat

0.38

0.80

Right and left gonad wt *


Spleen wt*

Component 4

0.87

Omental fat wt*


Peltless body wt

Component 3

0.84
0.35

-0.48

-0.55

*Condition measures standardized for body size.

Table 10. Results of the Canonical Correlation Analysis on the Principal Components
for body condition measures in adult male mink and their total renal and hepatic
burdens (g) of cadmium, nickel and lead (n=21)
Correlation Coefficients for Root 1
Dependent variables:
Principal Component 1 (fat deposits, neck circumference)

0.69

Principal Component 4 (gonadal and spleen wts, total worm no.)

0.70

Independent variables:
Total Cd burden

0.64

Total Ni burden

0.49

Total Pb burden

0.79

208

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

These components were used as dependent variables in the subsequent Canonical


Correlation Analysis while total body (renal and hepatic) metal burdens of cadmium, nickel
and lead were used as independent variables. The results of the Canonical Correlation
Analysis are presented in Table 10. One root was significant at p < 0.05 with a Canonical
Correlation Coefficient (r) of 0.83. Principal Components 1 and 4 loaded on the dependent (y)
component of the root with correlation coefficients of 0.69 and 0.70 respectively. All three
total body metal burdens loaded moderately on the independent component (x) of the root.
Sixty-two per cent of the variance in total body lead, 41% of the variance in total body
cadmium and 24% of the variance in total body nickel burdens were shared with the
independent component of the root. In summary, the results of the Canonical Correlation
Analysis indicated that as the total body burdens of cadmium, nickel and lead increased, there
was an increase in abdominal mid-ventral and thoracic post-cardinal fats, neck circumference,
gonadal weight and total number of D. renale worms but the spleen weights decreased.

DISCUSSION
Giant kidney worm infection resulted in substantial weight changes among the kidneys,
but not the livers or peltless body weights, of mink. Kidneys infected with D. renale were
enlarged but the increase only reached significance for multiple worm infections where the
development of several worms along with the formation of a bony spicule had taken place
within the cyst. Hypertrophy of the left kidney to compensate for the loss in function of the
infected right kidney was indicated by the increase in dry organ weight over that seen in noninfected mink. McNeil (1948) and Mace (1976) similarly reported enlargements of both the
left kidney and the right kidney cyst in D. renale infected mink. The dry weight of the left
kidney in infected animals approximated the combined dry weights of right and left kidneys
in non-infected mink; thus the amount of functioning renal (and hepatic) tissue was
approximately equal for all infection groups. Consequently, any changes in tissue metal
burdens or concentration values noted in the parasitized animal can be deemed to be the result
of changes in metal uptake levels and/or the re-distribution of tissue metal loads.
Among the most interesting findings of this study was the increased renal plus hepatic
metal burden of parasitized (both single and multiple-worm infected) mink over that seen in
uninfected animals. Although quantitatively variable, this pattern was apparent for all three
metals examined. The nature of this metal-parasite association is of fundamental importance
and raises the question of whether the enhanced body metal loads had increased the
susceptibility of the animal leading to infection by the kidney worm or conversely whether it
was the invasion/presence of the D. renale worm(s) that had resulted in the increased levels of
metal uptake within these targeted tissues. The fact that more intense infections (4-6 worms
per animal) were generally associated with higher body metal burdens than seen in single
worm infections, although interesting, offers little towards answering this question. The latter
scenario, inferring a direct enhancing effect of the parasite on metal uptake and retention in
the host, appears more likely in this particular host-parasite relationship for a number of
reasons: D. renale is known to occur in areas devoid of point source metal emissions and
conversely is virtually absent in certain other locales heavily dominated by metal pollution
(e.g. Palmerton, Pennsylvania). Furthermore, juvenile and adult mink of the Sudbury area are

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

209

known to be infected at approximately equal frequencies (N. Schaffner and G.Parker,


unpublished data) despite the fact that the 5-6 month old juveniles, when trapped in the fall,
have had only brief exposures to prevailing environmental metal conditions and thus would
not be expected to have accrued significant metal burdens nor an accompanying increase in
susceptibility to the parasite. It is contended, therefore, that parasitic infection by the giant
kidney worms, whatever its primary predispositional cause(s) may have been, contributed
directly to the increased uptake and/or retention of tissue metals noted in this study. Future
laboratory studies investigating experimental infection intensities in captive mink exposed to
varying levels of metals within their diet would shed further light on this unresolved
contention.
Elevated metal burdens in the infected animals were most likely due to an increase in
metal uptake subsequent to parasitic infection. Although unconfirmed, it is certainly
conceivable that the energy demands imposed on the parasitized animal would be elevated, if
for no other reason than to provide the extra requirements needed in the growth and
development of the newly-developing cyst structures (namely the cast, worms and spicule),
the proliferation of actively hypertrophying tissues within the left kidney and the nutrients
necessary to sustain the resident parasites. Inherent in this supposition is the assumption that
increased levels of dietary intake would lead to enhanced exposure, uptake and retention of
metals by the infected animal.
Of the three elements sequestered by the parasitized animal, cadmium was the only one
to show significantly increased tissue levels in both the liver and the non-parasitized renal
tissue. Cadmium has a high affinity for the metal binding protein metallothionein (MT),
which is induced in the liver and to a lesser extent in the kidneys of the exposed animal
(Goering and Klaassen, 1984). It has been demonstrated that MT functions as a mechanism
for transport, storage and detoxification of metals (Fulkerson and Goeller, 1973).
Detoxification of cadmium in the vertebrate body occurs when the divalent form of the metal
(the most harmful form of most toxic metals) complexes with the low molecular weight
protein. The MT-cadmium complex is then transported to the kidneys for storage where it is
kept out of circulation. Once the levels of cadmium in the renal tissue reach a given threshold,
which varies among species, irreversible tubular damage results (Friberg et al., 1979). With
the loss in function of one kidney, the lone functioning left kidney and liver were responsible
for sequestering most of the cadmium taken up subsequent to parasitic infection. The
proportion of cadmium deposited in the left kidney of infected mink (27-31%; Table 5) was
roughly equivalent to the sum of the proportions deposited in both kidneys of the uninfected
animal (32%), and did not differ with increasing infection intensity. Also of interest here is
the fact that in infected animals the relative distribution of cadmium between the left
(hypertrophied) kidney and the liver remained at a ratio of approximately 3.5:1 a value
comparable to that seen in non-infected mink with both kidneys functional (Table 2). The
consistency of the above distribution ratios among infected and non-infected groups suggests
that cadmium was distributed between renal and hepatic tissues in a well regulated manner
and that the mechanisms and processes involved in the distribution and deposition of
cadmium in these two accumulator tissues had not been significantly altered as a result of
parasitic infection or increased metal loads. As parasitic burdens increased to 4-6 worms,
cadmium was consistently distributed among host tissues, with the exception of a slight
decrease in the proportion (57 vs. 65%; Table 5) deposited in the liver. This reduction may
have been due to the greater amount of worm tissue available for cadmium deposition and

210

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

which accounted for an increased proportion (8 vs. 3%; Table 5) of the total body burden of
the more heavily-infected animal, thus leaving less to be sequestered in the liver.
Whether the tissue damage induced by the invading D. renale parasite was directly
responsible for the augmented hepatic and/or renal cadmium levels noted in parasitized
animals is a matter of speculation. Lysis of the internal renal tissues of the right kidney by the
new-acquired invading worms might be expected to release bound cadmium from its MT
complex, thereby freeing it for incorporation into the growing worms, for reabsorption into
systemic circulation leading to increased production of MT followed by redistribution to other
host tissues or for elimination via the ureters which are known to remain open in the infected
animal (McNeil, 1948; Anderson, 2000).
Similarly, migration of the worms as third-stage larvae/subadults through the liver during
the initial infective process may have served as a physical or biochemical stimulus for the
production of additional MT in the liver. Mace and Anderson (1975) reported D. renale
larvae between the diaphragm and the right lobe of the liver in mink as late as 50 days postinfection. In addition, they found numerous lesions throughout the infiltrated liver containing
necrotic cells, fibrin, red blood cells, eosinophils, macrophages and lymphocytes. Visual
inspection and palpation of the livers of parasitized mink in the present study showed the
tissue to be abnormally firm and the ventral surfaces of the lobes to be uneven with evidence
of pathological damage. Fibres of connective tissue frequently attached the right kidney cyst
to the right lobe of the liver, as well as to other structures including the greater omentum,
duodenum and/or ventral surface of the abdominal wall, as has been noted by previous
investigators (McNeil, 1948; Mace, 1976). Cadmium, if leached from hepatic storage sites as
a result of the physical and/or pathological damage induced by the invading migratory larval
worms, could be expected to re-enter circulation, thus re-priming the production of MT
within host tissues. Evidence that the cadmium leaking out of necrotic liver tissue results in
increased kidney burdens of cadmium has been demonstrated in the mouse (Andersen et al.,
1985). The fact that abdominal infections not involving renal-hepatic tissue damage produced
little alteration in body cadmium burdens and their distribution confirms the central role of
parasite-induced tissue damage in prompting the substantial changes in cadmium
accumulation and distribution patterns seen in the more conventionally (i.e. right kidney)
infected mink.
Unlike the elevations noted in the liver and hypertrophied left kidney, cadmium levels in
the right kidney cyst of the parasitized animal remained unchanged from values observed for
kidneys prior to infection. On average, individual components within the cyst harboured
relatively low levels of cadmium, suggesting the absence of MT-complexing processes in
these tissues. The fact that only relatively small amounts of cadmium were taken up by the
resident worms may be explained by the absence of a well-developed excretory system, the
main site of MT-facilitated accumulation in most species, in these and similar nematodes
(Mace and Anderson, 1975).
Body burdens of nickel and lead were likewise elevated in response to parasitism, but
unlike the pattern noted for cadmium, most of the extra metal accumulated was confined to
the renal structures. Both nickel and lead are eliminated from the vertebrate body primarily
through the renal system (Friberg et al., 1979). There is no process comparable to the MTcadmium complex known to assist in the detoxification of either nickel or lead. With a
reduced ability to excrete these metals through the single remaining kidney, along with an
enhanced dietary intake as proposed earlier in this discussion, it would stand to reason that

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

211

some of the excess metals present within the infected animal would be localized within the
hypertrophied left kidney as indicated. By comparison, greater amounts of both lead and
nickel, however, were accumulated within the dysfunctional right kidney cyst of the
parasitized animal. Deposition into the various components of the cyst may have occurred
during the growth of these structures but is deemed to have been selective rather than
uniform, as concentrations of both lead and nickel within the spicule exceeded those present
in the cast tissue and resident worms by a factor of several-fold. The substantial levels
deposited within the component structures of the right renal cyst ultimately accounted for as
much as 25 to 47% and 21 to 32% of the total renal-hepatic nickel and lead burdens
respectively (Table 5) and appear to account for the markedly reduced proportions
sequestered within the liver of the parasitized animal.
Establishing trends in metal accumulation and distribution in response to infection
intensity as attempted here was fraught with several potential confounding factors. Sources of
variation that must be acknowledged include individual differences in host reaction to
parasitic infection and/or increased metal loads, variability in geographic origin of samples,
age-related variations in the host, age of the infection and inherent differences between the
sexes of the parasite. The biological response to a stress of any type varies from individual to
individual, and when trying to examine the response of individuals to multiple stresses, the
variability can be expected to magnify. The Sudbury region was chosen as an appropriate site
for this study because of its longstanding history of mining/smelting activity resulting in
substantial environmental contamination and because a 50% prevalence of D. renale
infections was known to exist within its wild mink populations. However, to collect sufficient
numbers, mink had to be taken at varying distances from the point source of metal pollution
a factor which undoubtedly contributed to the variability in metal loads among animals. Only
adult male mink were employed in an attempt to reduce variation in metal accumulation as a
function of age and/or gender. However, as the adult age class consisting of mink greater than
one year probably included some individuals ranging up to 4 or 5 years of age, the period of
exposure to metal contaminants cannot be considered uniform. Finally, due to substantial
sexual dimorphism in adult D. renale specimens, the gender of the infecting worm in the case
of single worm infections and the ratio of male to female worms in multiple worm infections
are factors which must be taken into consideration in establishing metal distribution patterns.
Female D. renale were consistently longer and heavier than male worms by a factor of 3,
which largely accounted for the approximate 3-fold elevation in cadmium, nickel and lead
burdens found in female worms versus male worms. However, when metal accumulations
were expressed on a per gram dry weight basis, male and female worms indicated nearequivalent concentrations, with the exception of lead which was 1.5 times higher in males.
While studies on Ascaris suum, a parasitic nematode of swine, failed to indicate genderdifferences in metal (Cd and Pb) uptake (Greichus and Greichus, 1980; Sures et al., 1998),
those involving other nematode species including Conracaecum rudolphii in cormorants
(Barus et al., (2001) and Anguillicola crassus in the European eel (Barus et al., 1999; Tenora
et al., 1999a) have shown a higher propensity for accumulation in males. In contrast, the
archiacanthocephalan Moniliformis moniliformis, experimentally introduced into the
gastrointestinal tract of rats and subsequently exposed through dietary supplements, indicated
higher Pb accumulations in female specimens a factor attributed to the substantial levels
sequestered within eggs (Sures et al., 2000). No attempt was made to localize the metal
accumulations within the giant kidney worms of the present study. Possible sites include the

212

Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

cuticle, reproductive structures and/or the gastrointestinal tract, but not excretory tissues as
this nematode is not known to possess a structured excretory system (Mace and Anderson,
1975). Analytical methods sensitive enough to evaluate metal contaminants in very small
amounts of tissue may provide information identifying the sites of accumulation and
explaining differences in uptake between the two sexes.
The 2-fold higher concentrations of cadmium, nickel and lead in the developing bony
spicule relative to femur levels denote the spicule as an active site for deposition. Previous
studies have shown lead to be primarily deposited in bone and secondarily in soft tissue,
whereas nickel and cadmium accumulated primarily in soft tissues and secondarily in osseous
tissues (Friberg et al., 1979). The present results confirm this pattern in that lead presented the
highest concentrations in the spicule while cadmium showed the lowest concentrations. It is
tempting to conjecture that the deposition of toxic metals into the spicule structure may be
adaptive in allowing the host to store a portion of the increased metal load in a relatively nonexchangeable compartment of the body, thereby reducing the levels of toxic metals in
circulation or in storage within more vulnerable tissues. In the case of nickel, the proportion
deposited in the spicule was equivalent to the proportion in a single kidney of a nonparasitized mink (Table 5). Likewise, the spicule accounted for an equivalent proportion of
lead as seen in the entire renal system of a non-parasitized animal. This conjecture of adaptive
sequestration, if valid, could be expected to contribute only within limits as spicules seldom
exceeded 0.3 grams dry weight and generally accounted for less than 15% of the total renalhepatic metal burden (Table 5).
Few other studies investigating parasite-induced changes in host tissue metal distribution
were found in the literature. Palikova and Barus (2003) observed only low levels of mercury
accumulation in A. crassus, and concluded that the low efficacy of Hg (and of other elements
as reported by variuos authors) sequestering probably had little effect on tissue concentrations
in their host species, the eel. Evidence suggesting a significant role by tapeworms in
decreasing host tissue metal levels in several fish species has been presented by Turcekov and
Hanzelova (1999), Barus et al. (2001b) and Turcekova et al. (2002). Sures and Siddall (1999)
examined the effects of lead accumulation by adult intestinal worms (Pomphorhynchus
laevis) on the tissue metal levels of their definitive host, the chub (Leuciscus cephalus). The
presence of intestinal worms reportedly lowered lead accumulation in the intestinal wall
relative to that seen in uninfected fish. The authors suggested that the intestinal parasites had
extracted substantial lead from the diet of the host, thereby reducing the amount available for
absorption by the host tissues and accounting for the higher concentrations seen in worm
versus host tissues (unfortunately, burdens in host and parasite tissues were not reported). The
results of the present study in which D. renale infections were consistently associated with
elevated cadmium concentrations and unaltered lead and nickel levels within the renal and
hepatic tissues of the host are at variances with the above reported trends. The reason(s) for
the observed discrepancy is unclear, but may relate to differences in the source and route of
metal uptake (dietary versus extraction from the host tissue stores) and/or the level of
parasitic damage and host reaction incurred during the process of infection.
Assessment of the effects of both a parasitic stress and increased metal loads on mink
health revealed a positive relationship for two internal fat deposits, gonadal weight, neck
circumference and total number of D. renale worms with combined renal and hepatic burdens
of cadmium, lead and nickel. Spleen weight was negatively related to the total metal burdens.
These trends substantiate those reported by Capodagli and Parker (2007), in that higher levels

On the Redistribution of Tissue Metal (Cadmium, Nickel and Lead)

213

of fat deposition in both mink and muskrat (non-parasitized) were likewise observed among
animals bearing elevated tissue levels of cadmium and lead. If mink infected with the giant
kidney worm parasite were consuming more food to meet the increased energy demands of
parasitic infection, as suggested above, such dietary enhancement, if excessive, could explain
the increase in fat deposits noted for the abdominal mid-ventral and thoracic post-cardinal
sites. The extent to which the proposed increase in food consumption may have contributed to
the enhanced development of the neck musculature (as denoted by increased circumference),
and possibly an improved capacity for successfully capturing larger prey items, is open to
speculation. The positive relationship denoted between the intensity of infection (number of
worms present) and combined renal-hepatic metal burdens of the animal can best be
attributed to the level of tissue damage incurred combined with the nature of the host tissue
responses to the invading parasites as outlined earlier in this discussion.
The observed increase in gonad weight with increasing renal-hepatic metal levels,
although presently unexplained, may be indicative of direct alterations to reproductive
processes or indirectly through associated endocrinological functions. Testes have been
shown to be sensitive to the effects of cadmium, although low doses of the element have
generally been observed to induce necrosis, rather than hypertrophy (Fulkerson and Goeller;
1973). Given the possibility that accrued toxic metal burdens could adversely affect
reproductive status and productivity in this fur-bearing species, the metal-prompted increase
in testes weight may warrant further investigation including an assessment of histological
changes.
The negative relationship indicated between spleen weight and body metal burdens is
difficult to interpret. The spleen typically functions to breakdown and dispose of aged and
discarded red blood cells and has been shown to increase in size (splenomegaly) with
increased functional demand in rats experimentally exposed to lead (Ogilvie and Martin,
1981). At the present time, no explanation can be offered for the apparent decrease in fresh
spleen weights noted here.
It was initially hypothesized that destruction of the right kidney during D. renale
infection of the mink, particularly in geographic populations marked by elevated
environmental cadmium exposure, might result in critically elevated tissue metal levels
leading to functional impairment of the remaining contralateral. The findings of this study
support the view that metal levels were substantially elevated (2 to 2.5-fold) in the surviving
kidney of the parasitized animal. However, as damage in the human kidney generally does not
become apparent until renal cadmium levels reach values of approximately 350 gg-1 dry
weight (approximately 100 gg-1 wet weight) (Friberg et al., 1979) and individual values in
this study seldom exceeded 10 gg-1 dry weight, the risk to Sudbury-area mink would appear
to be only low to moderate. Although the animals had been simultaneously exposed to nickel,
lead and possibly other toxic elements within the Sudbury environment, there was no
evidence of increased concentrations of these elements within the left kidney tissue. The
necrotic effects of lead on renal tissue are well documented (Friberg et al., 1979) and the
possibility of synergistic toxicological effects during multi-elemental exposure, even in the
absence of tissue accumulations, cannot be ruled out.

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Glenn H. Parker and Liane Capodagli

CONCLUSIONS
Metal burdens in renal-hepatic tissues were higher in mink infected with the giant kidney
worm parasite than in non-infected mink. A trend of increasing metal burdens with greater
numbers of worms present was apparent for nickel and lead but not cadmium. Changes in the
proportional distribution of nickel and lead in host mink tissues were due to accumulations in
new tissue growth induced by parasitic infection. Cadmium consistently accumulated in renal
and hepatic tissue with minimal alteration in the proportional distributions subsequent to D.
renale infection.
The spicule was the tissue of preference for both lead and nickel deposition, whereas
cadmium accumulated more readily in the hypertrophying left kidney and the liver. The
substantial accumulation of metals (namely lead and nickel) in the bony spicules (but not in
the femurs) of infected animals may be an adaptive mechanism whereby the levels found in
systemic circulation and soft tissues are reduced and soft tissue damage thus avoided.
Female worms accumulated approximately 3-fold higher burdens of cadmium, lead and
nickel than did male worms. This gender difference is attributable to the larger mass of
females, as concentration values (with the exception of certain lead determinations) did not
differ between the sexes.
Although toxic metal burdens were enhanced in parasitized mink, concentration values in
the hosts soft tissues remained below levels known to elicit damage and disrupt function.
Nevertheless, a relationship among certain body measures and increased metal loads of
infected mink was noted. Abdominal mid-ventral and thoracic post-cardinal fat deposits, neck
circumference and combined gonad weight were positively related to combined renal and
hepatic metal burdens while spleen weights were negatively related. These trends substantiate
earlier findings reported for non-parasitized mink carrying elevated body metal burdens as a
result of residing within the immediate influence of active ore mining/smelting operations
(Capodagli and Parker, 2007). These associations may indicate a focal point for future
research on the impacts of increased metal loads and parasitic infection on the host system.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of all members of the Sudbury Fur Trappers
Council who contributed carcasses from their traplines. Statistical advice was kindly provided
by M.A.Persinger. This work was financially supported through the Laurentian University
Research Fund, the Ontario Graduate Scholarship for Scientists and Technologists Program
and the Sudbury Game and Fish Protective Association.

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In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 6

AEROBICALLY BIODEGRADED FISH-MEAL


WASTEWATER AS A FERTILIZER
Joong Kyun Kim1 and Geon Lee2
1

Department of Biotechnology and Bioengineering,


Pukyong National University, Busan, Korea
2
Research Department, Samrim Corporation,
Kimhae, Kyongnam, Korea

ABSTRACT
Reutilization of fish-meal wastewater (FMW) as a fertilizer was attempted, and
aerobic biodegradation of the FMW were successfully achieved by microbial consortium
in a 1-ton bioreactor. During the large-scale biodegradation of FMW, the level of DO was
maintained over 1.25 mgl-1, and a strong unpleasant smell remarkably disappeared in the
end. Although the level of total amino acids and the concentrations of N, P and K in the
biodegraded FMW were relatively lower than those in two commercial fertilizers, the
concentrations of noxious components in the biodegraded FMW were much lower than
the standard concentrations. The phytotoxicity of the biodegraded FMW was almost
equal to that of the commercial fertilizers. The fastest growth in hydroponic cultures of
red bean and barley was achieved at 100-fold and 500-fold dilution, respectively, the
growth of which was comparable to those of 1,000-fold diluted commercial-fertilizers.
From all above results, it was concluded that a large-scale biodegradation of FMW was
successful and the properties of FMW were acceptable. This is the first study to
demonstrate aerobic production of liquid-fertilizer from FMW.

Keywords: fish-meal wastewater, fertilizer, microbial consortium, large-scale biodegradetion, phytotoxicity, hydroponic culture.

220

Joong Kyun Kim and Geon Lee

INTRODUCTION
The amount of fisheries waste generated in Korea is expected to increase with a steady
increase in population to enjoy taste of slices of raw fish. The fisheries waste is reduced and
reutilized through the fish meal production. The process, which uses fish wastes such as
heads, bones or other residues, is the commonest used in the Korean industries. The first step
of the fish-meal manufacturing processes is the compression and crushing of the raw material,
which is then cooked with steam, and the liquid effluent is filtered off in a filter press. The
liquid stream contains oils and a high content of organic suspended solids. After oil
separation, the fish-meal wastewater (FMW) is generated and shipped to wastewater
treatment place. FMW has been customarily disposed of by dumping into the sea, since direct
discharge of FMW can cause serious environmental problems. Besides, bad smell, which is
produced during fish-meal manufacturing processes, causes civil petition. Stricter regulations
for this problem also come into force every year in Korea. Therefore, there is an urge to seek
for an effective treatment to remove the organic load from the FMW; otherwise the fish meal
factories will be forced to shut down.
Biological treatment technologies of fish-processing wastewater have been studied to
improve effluent quality (Battistoni and Fava, 1995; Park et al., 2001). The common feature
of the wastewaters from fish processing is their diluted protein content, which after
concentration by a suitable method would enable the recovery and reuse of this valuable raw
material, either by direct recycling to the process or subsequent use in animal feed, human
food, seasoning, etc. (Afonso and Borquez, 2002). It has been also reported that the organic
wastes contain compounds, which are capable of promoting plant growth (Day and
Katterman, 1992), and seafood processing wastewaters do not contain known toxic or
carcinogenic materials unlike other types of municipal and industrial effluents (Afonso and
Borquez, 2002). Although these studies imply that FMW could be a valuable resource for
agriculture, potential utilization of this fish wastes has been limited because of its bad smell
(Martin, 1999). There is an increasing need to find ecologically acceptable alternatives to
overcome this problem.
Aerobic biodegradation has been widely used in treatment of wastewaters, and recently
references to the use of meso- and thermophilic microorganisms have become increasingly
frequent (Cibis et al., 2006). During the biodegradation, the organic matter is biodegraded
mainly through exothermic aerobic reactions, producing carbon dioxide, water, mineral salts,
and a stable and humified organic material (Ferrer et al., 2001). There have been few reports
that presented the reutilization of biodegraded waste products as liquid-fertilizer: a waste
product of alcoholic fermentation of sugar beet (Agaur and Kadioglu, 1992), diluted manure
streams after biological treatment (Kalyuzhnyi et al., 1999), and biodegraded fish-meal
wastewater in our previous studies (Kim et al, 2007; Kim and Lee, 2008). Therefore, aerobic
biodegradation is considered to be the most suitable alternative to treat FMW and realize a
market for such a waste as a fertilizer.
The growth of plants and their quality are mainly a function of the quantity of fertilizer
and water. So it is very important to improve the utilization of water resources and fertilizer
nutrients. The influence of organic matter on soil biological and physical fertility is well
known. Organic matter affects crop growth and yield either directly by supplying nutrients or
indirectly by modifying soil physical properties such as stability of aggregates and porosity

Aerobically Biodegraded Fish-Meal Wastewater as a Fertilizer

221

that can improve the root environment and stimulate plant growth (Darwish et al., 1995).
Incorporation of organic matter has been shown to improve soil properties such as
aggregation, water-holding capacity, hydraulic conductivity, bulk density, the degree of
compaction, fertility and resistance to water and wind erosion (Carter and Stewart, 1996;
Franzluebbers, 2002; Zebarth et al., 1999). Combined use of organic and inorganic sources of
nutrients is essential to maintain soil health and to augment the efficiency of nutrients (Lian,
1994).
Three primary nutrients in fertilizers are nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. According
to Perrenouds report (1990), most authors agree that N generally increases crop susceptibility
to pests and diseases, and P and K tend to improve plant health. It has been reported that
tomato is a heavy feeder of NPK (Hebbar et al., 2004) and total nitrogen content is high in
leaves in plants having a high occurrence of bitter fruits (Kano et al., 2001). Phosphorus is
one of the most essential macronutrients (N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S) required for the growth of
plants, and the deficiency of phosphorus will restrict plant growth in soil (Son et al., 2006).
However, the excessive fertilization with chemically synthesized phosphate fertilizers has
caused severe accumulation of insoluble phosphate compounds in farming soil (Omar, 1998),
which gradually deteriorates the quality as well as the pH of soil. Different fertilization
treatments of a long-term field experiment can cause soil macronutrients and their available
concentrations to change, which in turn affects soil micronutrient (Cu, Fe, Mn, Zn) levels.
Application of appropriate rates of N, P and K fertilizers has been reported to be able to
increase soil Cu, Zn and Mn availabilities and the concentrations of Cu, Zn, Fe and Mn in
wheat (Li, et al., 2007).
It has been also reported that higher rates of fertilizers suppress microbial respiration
(Thirukkumaran and Parkinson, 2000) and dehydrogenase activity (Simek et al., 1999).
Recently, greater emphasis has been placed on the proper handling and application of
agricultural fertilizers in order to increase crop yield, reduce costs and minimize
environmental pollution (Allaire and Parent, 2004; Tomaszewska and Jarosiewicz, 2006).
Hydroponics is a plant culture technique, which enables plant growth in a nutrient
solution with the mechanical support of inert substrata (Nhut et al., 2006). Hydroponic culture
systems provide a convenient means of studying plant uptake of nutrients free of confounding
and uncontrollable changes in soil nutrient supply to the roots. Thus, it is fit for test of
fertilizing ability of liquid fertilizers. The technique was developed from experiments carried
out to determine what substances make plants grow and plant composition (Howard, 1993).
Water culture was one of the earliest methods of hydroponics used both in laboratory
experiments and in commercial crop production. Nowadays, hydroponics is considered as a
promising technique not only for plant physiology experiments but also for commercial
production (Nhut et al., 2004; Resh, 1993). The technique has been also adapted to many
situations, from field and indoor greenhouse culture to highly specialized culture in atomic
submarines to grow fresh vegetables for the crew (Nhut et al., 2004). Hydroponics provides
numerous advantages: no need for soil sterilization, high yields, good quality, precise and
complete control of nutrition and diseases, shorter length of cultivation time, safety for the
environment and special utility in non-arable regions. Application of this culture technique
can be considered as an alternative approach for large-scale production of some desired and
valuable crops.
In this study, a large-scale biodegradation was successfully carried out for three days in a
1-ton reactor using the FMW generated from fish-meal manufacturing processes, and the

222

Joong Kyun Kim and Geon Lee

properties of the biodegraded FMW, such as phytotoxicity, amino-acid composition,


concentrations of major and noxious components, and fertilizing ability on hydroponic culture
plants were determined to examine the suitability of the biodegraded FMW as a fertilizer.

MATERIALS AND METHODS


Microorganisms and Media
The mixed microorganisms used in this study comprised seven microorganisms: Bacillus
subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis, Brevibacillus agri, Bacillus coagulans, Bacillus circulans,
Bacillus anthracis and Bacillus fusiformis. They were potential aerobically-degrading
bacteria, which were isolated from commercial good-quality humus and from compost and
leachate collected at three different sites of composting plants (Kim et al., 2007). There was
no potential bacterial antagonist among them. Each pure culture was maintained on 1.5%
Nutrient agar plate at 4until used, and transferred to a fresh agar plate every month. At the
same time, the potential degrading ability of each pure culture was also checked on 1% skim
milk agar, 3.215% spirit blue agar, starch hydrolysis agar (5 gl-1 of beef extract, 20 gl-1 of
soluble starch, 10 gl-1 of tryptose, 5 gl-1 of NaCl, and 15 gl-1 of agar, pH 7.4) and cellulose
agar (10 gl-1 of cellulose powder, 1 gl-1 of yeast extract, 0.1 gl-1 of NaCl, 2.5 gl-1 of (NH4)
-1
-1
-1
2SO4, 0.25 gl of K2HPO4, 0.125 gl of MgSO47H2O, 0.0025 gl of FeSO47H2O, 0.025
gl-1 of MnSO44H2O, and 15 gl-1 of agar, pH 7.2), respectively. All agar plates were
incubated at 450C until change of color or a clear zone around each colony appeared.

Liquid-Fertilization of FMW
A large-scale biodegradation of the original FMW was carried out in a 1-ton reactor for
its liquid-fertilization. The inside of the reactor was sterilized by hot steam for 30 min, and
then 600 l of the FMW obtained from a fish-meal factory was added into the reactor by a
peristaltic pump under the steaming. The FMW was characterized as: 115,00013,000 mgl-1
of chemical oxygen demand- dichromate (CODCr), 15,4001,300 mgl-1 of total nitrogen
(TN), 68,9007,600 mgl-1 of five days biological oxygen demand (BOD5), 2,800600 mgl-1
of NH4+-N, 0 mgl-1 of NO3--N and 0 mgl-1 of NO2--N. The salt concentration and pH of the
FMW were 0.60.1% and 6.50.2, respectively. After the steaming was quit, the reactor was
placed until temperature dropped down to 450C. Then, 30-l liquid broth of seven
microorganisms (on the same ratio of cell mass) grown in exponential phase of growth were
seeded into the reactor. For faster biodegradation, the inoculated cells were previously
acclimated for two days in the original FMW under an aerobic condition. The bioreactor was
operated at 42+40C, and air was supplied from two blowers (6.4 m3min-1 of capacity) into the
reactor through ceramic disk-typed diffusers. The aeration rate was 1,280 lmin-1. Ten-fold
diluted Antifoam 204 was used when severe foams occurred during biodegradation.
Samples from the reactor were collected periodically. The concentrations of dissolved oxygen
(DO), CODCr and TN were measured with oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) and pH.

Aerobically Biodegraded Fish-Meal Wastewater as a Fertilizer

223

Seed Germination Test


According to the method of Wong et al.(2001), seed germination tests for 50-, 100-, 250-,
500-, and 1,000-fold diluted final broths, which were taken from the biodegradation of
original FMW in a 1-ton reactor, were carried out against control in order to evaluate the
phytotoxicity of the biodegraded FMW. Two commercial fertilizers, C-1 (A-company,
Incheon, Korea) and C-2 (N-company, Kimhae, Korea), frequently used in Korea were also
tested for the comparison of their phytotoxicity. Five milliliters of each sample were pipetted
into a sterile petri dish lined with Whatman #1 filter paper. Ten cress (Lepidium sativum)
seeds were evenly placed in each dish. The plates were incubated at 25 C in the dark at 75%
of humidity. Distilled water was used as a control. Seed germination and root length in each
plate were measured at 72 h. The percentages of relative seed germination (RSG), relative
root growth (RRG) and germination index (GI) after expose to the sample were calculated as
the following formula (Zucconi et al., 1981; Hoekstra et al., 2002):

RSG (%) =

Number of seeds germinated in the


biodegraded FMW
Number of seeds germinated in control

RRG (%) =

Mean root length in the


biodegraded FMW
Mean root length in control

GI (%) =

100

100

RS
G
RRG
100

Hydroponic Culture
To test the fertilizing ability of the biodegraded FMW produced in a 1-ton reactor, a
hydroponic culture system was applied to cultivate red bean and barley in a mini-hydroponic
culture pot (5128 cm3) against control. Tests were carried out on the biodegraded FMW at
various dilutions (50, 100, 250, 500 and 1,000-fold). The tests were also carried out on 1,000fold diluted commercial-fertilizers in order to compare with the fertilizing ability of the
biodegraded FMW. The hydroponic culture pot was composed of a glass vessel and a plastic
screen inside. In each pot, ten seeds of red bean or twenty-five seeds of barley were put on top
of the plastic screen, respectively, and approximately 300-ml solution of the biodegraded
FMW at various dilution ratios was filled underneath the plastic screen. After set-up of the
hydroponic culture system, each pot was initially covered with aluminum foil to keep seeds in
dark before seed germination. After seed germination, the pot placed by the window all day
long to provide the necessary sunlight for plants growth. Day and night temperatures of air
were maintained at 2220C and 182 by natural ventilation and heating. Water temperature
was 1530C, and the relative humidity in the room was 60% on the average. The fertilizer
solution was refreshed every four days, and the seeds were soaked all the time. After seed

224

Joong Kyun Kim and Geon Lee

germination, roots grew through the pore of the plastic screen. The growth of plants was
observed periodically, and height, thickness of stem, number of leaf, and length of leaf of
each plant were measured.

Analyses
The concentrations of cations (NH4+) and anions (NO2- and NO3-) were estimated by IC
(Metrohm 792 Basic IC, Switzerland). The columns used in these analyses were Metrosep
C2-150 and Metrosep Supp 5-150 for cation and anion, respectively. The concentrations of
CODCr and TN concentrations were analyzed by the Water-quality Analyzer (Humas, Korea).
The concentration of BOD5 was analyzed by the OxiDirect BOD-System (Lovibond,
Germany). The composition of amino acids, and concentrations of major and noxious
components in biodegraded FMW and commercial liquid-fertilizers were analyzed at Science
Lab Center Co., Ltd (Daejeon, Korea) by our request.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


Liquid-Fertilization of FMW
To industrialize the biodegraded FMW as liquid-fertilizer, data obtained in laboratory
equipment should be transferred to industrial production. Problems of scale-up in a bioreactor
are associated with the behavior of liquid in the bioreactor and the metabolic reactions of the
organisms. Transport limitation is considered as one of the major factors responsible for
phenomena observed at large-scale. For this reason, a large-scale FMW biodegradation were
attempted in a 1-ton bioreactor, and the result is shown in Figure 1. As shown in Figure 1, DO
level in the reactor started to decrease after 5 h. This implies that active biodegradation of
FMW took placed after a lag phase by the mixed microorganisms used in this study, since
oxygen consumption has been known to be a general index of microbial metabolism (Tomati
et al., 1996). During two days biodegradation, the DO level was maintained over 2 mgl-1, but
it decreased further thereafter. The final DO level was 1.25 mgl-1. In aerobic processes,
oxygen is a key substrate and a continuous transfer of oxygen from the gas phase to the liquid
phase is decisive for maintaining the oxidative metabolism of the cells because of its low
solubility in aqueous solutions. Generally, it has known that DO level in a bioreactor should
be maintained over 1 mgl-1 for aerobic fermentation (Tohyama et al., 2000). Therefore, it
would seem that the supply of oxygen into the 1-ton reactor met the demand of oxygen by the
microorganisms during the biodegradation.
The pH was 6.99 at the beginning and decreased down to 6.15 after 20 h. Then the pH
was recovered slowly and its final value was 6.86. In our previous study (Kim et al., 2008),
pH had a tendency to increase during the biodegradation because of insufficient supply of
oxygen. These results imply that microorganisms had different metabolism, which was
dependent on the availability of dissolved oxygen. The value of ORP started at 18.2 mV. The
value of ORP decreased rapidly after 45 h and the final value reached to 0.6 mV. The
decrease in the ORP value resulted from the decrease in DO level. During the biodegradation,
the values of ORP maintained positive, and a strong unpleasant smell (mainly a fishy smell)

Aerobically Biodegraded Fish-Meal Wastewater as a Fertilizer

225

remarkably disappeared in the end. It seemed that a complete aerobic biodegradation might
take place to a certain extent with maintenance of ORP in a positive range, since unpleasant
odor can be easily produced under incomplete aerobic biodegradation (Zhang et al., 2004).
40
8.5

20

7.5

-20

7.0

-40

ORP (mV)

pH

DO (mg.l-1)

8.0

-60

6.5

-80
6.0
120000

18000

-1

CODcr (mg.l-1)

14000

TN (mg.l )

16000

100000

80000

12000
10000

60000
8000
6000

40000

4000
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

Time (h)
Figure 1. Changes of ORP( ), DO( ), pH( ), CODcr( ) and TN( ) during the biodegradation
in a 1-ton reactor.

From all the results, maintenance of DO level during biodegradation was found to be
very important and ORP could be a key parameter to operate biodegradation of FMW in a
large-scale. The ORP was reported to be used as a controlling parameter for regulation of
sulfide oxidation in anaerobic treatment of high-sulfate wastewater (Khanal and Huang,
2003), and on-line monitoring of ORP has been proved to be a practical and useful technique
for process control of wastewater treatment systems (Guo et al., 2007; Yu et al., 1997). As a
result, process optimization is required in a large-scale operation, especially aeration rate in
this case. After 52 h of biodegradation, the concentrations of CODCr and TN in original FMW
reduced to 25,100 and 4,790 mgl-1, respectively. The removal percentages of CODCr and TN

226

Joong Kyun Kim and Geon Lee

were 79.4 and 73.4%, respectively, with slight decrease of CODCr/TN ratio from 6.8 to 5.2. It
has been known that the COD/N ratio may influence biomass activity, and therefore on the
metabolic pathways of organic matter utilization (Ruiz et al., 2006). Based on this
information, the cell activity and metabolic pathways of the mixed microorganisms might be
maintained somewhat with their mutualism during the biodegradation.

Properties of Biodegraded FMW as Fertilizer


Since the FMW contains various compounds potentially useful for diverse plants, an
attractive application is its use as a fertilizer; however, this could have limitations due to some
toxic characteristics of the waste. For this reason, it is necessary to prove the non-toxic
properties and fertilizing ability of the final biodegraded FMW.

Phytotoxicity of Biodegraded FMW


Organic matters hold great promise due to their local availability as a source of multiple
nutrients and ability to improve soil characteristics. Sufficient aeration promotes the
conversion of the organic matters into nonobjectionable, stable end products such as CO2,
SO42-, NO3-, etc. However, an incomplete aeration may result in accumulation of organic acid,
thus giving trouble to plant growth if the fertilizer is incorporated into the soil (Jakobsen,
1995). The phytotoxicity of the biodegraded FMW produced in a 1-ton reactor was examined
at various dilution ratios, and compared with those of two commercial fertilizers (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Percentages of germination index (GI) at various dilution ratios of the biodegraded FMW
produced in a 1-ton reactor. The results are compared to those of 1,000-fold diluted commercial
fertilizers, C-1 and C-2.

Aerobically Biodegraded Fish-Meal Wastewater as a Fertilizer

227

As shown in Figure 2, the values of GI had a tendency to increase with increase of


dilution ratio of the biodegraded FMW. The GI values of the biodegraded FMW were less
than 20% at 50- and 100-fold dilution with low root elongation. The reduction in values of GI
indicates that some characteristics existed had an adverse effect on root growth. This may be
attributed to the release of high concentrations of ammonia and low molecular weight organic
acids (Fang and Wong, 1999; Wong, 1985), since cress (Lepidium sativum) used in this study
is known to be sensitive to the toxic effect of these compounds (Fuentes et al., 2004). At 250fold dilution, the GI value of the biodegraded FMW was close to 50%. A GI value of 50% has
been used as an indication of phytotoxin-free compost (Zucconi et al., 1985). According to
this GI criterion, the biodegraded FMW required more than 250-fold dilution to reach
stabilization of the organic matter to maintain the long-term fertility in soil. At 1,000-fold
dilution, the GI value was found to be close to 90%. This GI value was compared with those
of two commercial fertilizers at the same dilution, since 1,000-fold diluted liquid fertilizer
was used in horticulture for general purpose. The GI value of the biodegradative FMW was
much better than that of C-1 and comparable to that of C-2. This result implies that the
biodegradation of FMW in a 1-ton reactor was successfully carried out, and thus the
development of a liquid-fertilizer from the FMW was feasible.

Composition of Amino Acids of Biodegraded FMW


Amino acids are an essential part of the active fraction of organic matter in a fertilizer.
The growth of plants depends ultimately upon the availability of a suitable balance of amino
acids, and their composition might also be used as a means of assessing biodegradation. The
success of the scale-up process for the production of liquid fertilizer from the FMW can be
verified by determining the composition of amino acids. From this point of view, it is
necessary to analyze the amino-acid composition of the biodegraded FMW produced in a 1ton bioreactor. The analytical result was tabulated in Table 1 with those of two commercial
fertilizers. The level of total amino acids was 5.60 g100g sample-1, which was a little bit
better than that produced in our previous study (Kim and Lee, 2008). The higher content of
amino acids is probably due to the higher degree of mineralization of FMW, which indicates
release of more nutrients available for plants. However, the level of total amino acids in the
biodegraded FMW was lower, compared with those in two commercial fertilizers. This
implies that mineralization of FMW in a 1-ton reactor was not as great as that in a lab-scale
reactor (Bylund et al., 1998; Xu et al., 1999). Especially, the levels of aspartic acid, alanine
and lysine were low, whereas those of proline and glycine were relatively high. The
difference may be due to the composition of the original FMW, since it was found to be
dependent on the nature of the raw material processed in the factory (Kim et al., 2007).
Moreover, the composition of sulfur-containing amino acids, cysteine and methionine, was
relatively high in the biodegraded FMW. It has been reported that the sulfur-containing amino
acid, methionine is a nutritionally important essential amino acid and is the precursor of
several metabolites that regulate plant growth (Amir et al., 2002).

Joong Kyun Kim and Geon Lee

228

Table 1. Comparison of amino-acids composition of the biodegraded FMW with those of


commercial fertilizersa
Amino acid

Source of liquid fertilizer


Biodegraded FMW

Commercial C-1

Commercial C-2

Aspartic acid

0.49

0.90

0.58

Threonine
Serine

0.18
0.21

0.23
0.21

0.21
0.23

Glutamic acid

0.78

2.96

0.89

Proline
Glycine
Alanine

0.50
1.06
0.60

0.09
0.31
1.00

0.61
1.25
0.98

Valine

0.15

0.39

0.24

Isoleucine

0.14

0.28

0.13

Leucine
Tyrosine

0.24
0.07

0.42
0.17

0.26
0.05

Phenylalanine

0.19

0.22

0.18

Histidine

0.20

0.28

0.25

Lysine

0.29

1.54

0.53

Arginine

0.31

0.23

0.35

Cystine

0.04

n.d.c

0.04

Metionine

0.13

n.d.

0.01

Tryptophan

0.02

n.d.

0.02

Total

5.60

9.23

6.81
-1

composition of amino acids was based on dry weight (g100g sample ).


produced in a 1-ton reactor.
c
n.d. means not detected.
b

Concentrations of Major and Noxious Components in Biodegraded FMW


It is very important to improve the utilization of fertilizer nutrients, since the growth of
plants and their quality are mainly a function of the quantity of fertilizer. Organic matter
affects crop growth and yield directly by supplying nutrients (Darwish et al., 1995).
Combined use of organic and inorganic sources of nutrients is essential to augment the
efficiency of nutrients (Lian, 1994). For this reason, concentrations of three primary nutrients
(N, P, and K) in the biodegraded FMW were anaylized together with noxious components,
and compared with those in commercial fertilizers. The results were tabulated in Table 2. The
concentrations of N, P and K in the biodegraded FMW were 1.49, 0.28 and 0.41%,
respectively, and were much lower than those in commercial fertilizers.

Aerobically Biodegraded Fish-Meal Wastewater as a Fertilizer

229

Table 2. Comparison of concentrations of major and noxious components present in the


biodegraded FMW with those present in commercial fertilizers
Source of liquid fertilizer

Measurement

N, P, K
(%)

Noxious
Compounds
(mgkg-1)

Biodegraded FMWa

Commercial C-1

Commercial C-2

1.49

4.83

3.80

P2O5

0.28

2.86

2.83

K2O

0.41

2.10

3.04

Pb

n.d.b

0.63

0.31

As

n.d.

0.88

0.36

Cd

n.d.

0.08

0.03

Hg

0.01

n.d.

n.d.

Cr

0.20

3.52

3.44

Cu

n.d.

3.24

2.24

Ni

n.d.

1.54

2.32

Zn

1.61

4.39

3.51

produced in a 1-ton reactor.


n.d. means not detected.

However, the concentrations of noxious components in the biodegraded FMW were


much lower than those in commercial fertilizers. The noxious components, Pb, As, Cd, Cu
and Ni were not detected, and the other components were much less than the standard
concentrations provided by the law.

Hydroponic Culture on Biodegraded FMW


The fertilizing ability of the biodegraded FMW at various dilution ratios was tested in a
hydroponic culture system, which was applied to cultivate red bean and barley. The tests were
also carried out on 1,000-fold diluted commercial-fertilizers simultaneously. Results of
hydroponic culture of red bean on diluted biodegraded-FMW and commercial fertilizers were
tabulated in Table 3. As seen in Table 3, elongation of root was slow after seed germination
in all diluted FMW. However, roots elongated soon after development of root. The fastest
growth was achieved at 100-fold dilution, the growth of which was comparable to that of
1,000-fold diluted commercial-fertilizers. This result was somewhat surprising because the GI
test on the 100-fold diluted FMW showed low root elongation (Figure 2). The toxic effect of
the 100-fold diluted FMW might be not severe on red bean, although it was sensitive on
cress.

Joong Kyun Kim and Geon Lee

230

Table 3. Results of hydroponic culture of red bean on diluted biodegraded-FMW and


commercial fertilizers
Dilution of biodegraded FMW

Control (Water)
Measurement

Time (day)

50-fold

100-fold

250-fold

Time (day)

Time (day)

Time (day)

12 14 2

12 14 2

12 14 2

Height (cm)

1.5 3.0 6.0 -

1.0 2.0 -

2.0 4.0 6.0 9.0 -

1.0 3.0 4.5

Thickness of
stem (cm)

0.2 0.3 0.5 -

0.2 0.2 -

0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 -

0.2 0.3 0.3

Number of leaf

Length of leaf (cm) -

3.0 -

1.0 2.0 -

1.5 4.0 -

1.0 1.5

Dilution of biodegraded FMW


Measurement

Height (cm)
Thickness of
stem (cm)
Number of leaf
Length of leaf (cm)

500-fold

Time (day)
12 14 2

1,000-fold, C-1

1,000-fold, C-2

Time (day)

Time (day)

1.0 3.0 4.0 -

1.0 2.0 4.0 5.5 1.0 4.0 4.5 5.0 8.0 -

2.0 3.0 4.0 6.0

0.2 0.3 0.4 -

0.2 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.5 -

0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5

1 2 1.0 1.5 -

Commercial fertilizer

1,000-fold

Time (day)

12 14

12 14 2

1 2 1.0 2.0 -

12 14 2

2 2 1.5 4.5 -

12 14

2 2
1.0 3.0

Table 4. Results of hydroponic culture of barley on diluted biodegraded-FMW and


commercial fertilizers
Dilution of biodegraded FMW

Control (Water)
Measurement

50-fold

Time (day)

Time (day)

1.7 5.8 8.3 8.5 -

1.2 2.6 4.4 5.2 -

2.1 4.1 6.5 7.5 -

2.4 4.3 6.7 7.6

Thickness of
stem (cm)

0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 -

0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 -

0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 -

0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2

Number of leaf

12 14 2

0.7 1.3 3.1 3.5 -

Time (day)

Height (cm)

1.2 4.6 6.5 6.8 -

Time (day)

12 14 2

250-fold

Length of leaf (cm) -

100-fold

Height (cm)
Thickness of
stem (cm)
Number of leaf
Length of leaf (cm)

1.6 3.0 5.0 5.5 -

Dilution of biodegraded FMW


Measurement

12 14 2

12 14

Commercial fertilizer

500-fold

1,000-fold

1,000-fold, C-1

1,000-fold, C-2

Time (day)

Time (day)

Time (day)

Time (day)

12 14 2

1.9 3.0 5.0 5.6

2.9 5.5 7.8 8.1 -

1.5 3.9 5.6 6.3 -

12 14 2

2.8 5.6 7.1 7.7 -

12 14 2

1.8 4.8 8.6 9.0

0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 -

0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 -

0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 -

0.1 0.2 0.2 0.2

1 2 2 2 2.4 4.2 5.7 6.1 -

1 2 2 2 0.9 2.7 3.8 4.2 -

1
2

1 2 2 2
1.3 3.8 6.6 7.0

2 2 2 4.3 5.3 5.7 -

12 14

Aerobically Biodegraded Fish-Meal Wastewater as a Fertilizer

231

In Figure 3, the change of red beans growth from the seed at 100-fold dilution is shown
against control. Germination from the seed was observed at day 8 with the 100-fold diluted
FMW, whereas the germination was observed at day 12 in control. After 14 days cultivation,
much better growth of red bean was observed with the 100-fold diluted FMW, compared with
that in control. At the same dilution of 1,000-fold, growth of red bean cultivated on the
biodegraded FMW was not as good as that cultivated on commercial fertilizers. A decreasing
order of growth in the culture of red bean was C-1 > C-2 > biodegraded FMW. According to
Perrenouds report (1990), N, P and K are primary nutrients and considered to improve plant
health. The deficiency of phosphorus restricts plant growth in soil (Son et al., 2006), although
the excessive fertilization with chemically synthesized phosphate fertilizers has caused severe
accumulation of insoluble phosphate compounds (Omar, 1998). Therefore, relatively lower
growth of red bean on the biodegraded FMW might be due to the shortage of NPK
components (Table 2).

Figure 3. Results of hydroponic culture of red bean in control (A) and 100-fold diluted FMW (B). Each
figure shows the growth of red bean from the seed along the cultivation time. (1) day 1; (2) day 2; (3)
day 5; (4) day 8; (5) day 12; (6) day 14 and (7) roots on day 14.

232

Joong Kyun Kim and Geon Lee

Growth indexes of barley during hydroponic culture were measured on the biodegraded
FMW at various dilution ratios, and the measurements were compared with those of
commercial fertilizers (Table 4). Even though the growth in root and stem of barley at 50-fold
dilution was lower than that of control, it had a tendency to improve with increase of dilution
ratio of the biodegraded FMW. The best growth was achieved at 500-fold dilution in which
the growth was seen evenly in root and stem of barley (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Results of hydroponic culture of barley in control (A) and 500-fold diluted FMW (B). Each
figure shows the growth of barley from the seed along the cultivation time. (1) day 1; (2) day 2; (3) day
5; (4) day 8; (5) day 12; (6) roots on day 12 and (7) day 14.

From the GI test, the biodegraded FMW at 500-fold dilution was found to be phytotoxinfree (Figure 2). With the 500-fold diluted FMW, germination from the seed was observed at
day 5, and the same result was observed in control. After 14 days cultivation, however, faster
growth of barley was observed with the 500-fold diluted FMW, compared with that in
control. This growth of barley with the 500-fold diluted FMW was comparable to that
cultivated on 1,000-fold diluted commercial-fertilizers. However, the effect of dilution on
barley was not as sensitive as that on red bean.

Aerobically Biodegraded Fish-Meal Wastewater as a Fertilizer

233

CONCLUSION
Seven thermophilic microorganisms, which had proteolytic, lipolytic and carbohydratedegrading functions, were used in order to reutilize fish-meal wastewater (FMW). With
coexistence of the seven microorganisms, a lab-scale aerobic biodegradation of FMW were
successfully achieved, and its data were transferred to a 1-ton bioreactor. Although the level
of DO was decreased during the large-scale biodegradation of FMW, it was maintained over
1.25 mgl-1. The decrease in the level of DO resulted in decrease in ORP value. However, the
ORP values were maintained positive, and a strong unpleasant smell remarkably disappeared
in the end. After 52 h of biodegradation, the concentrations of CODCr and TN in original
FMW reduced to 25,100 and 4,790 mgl-1, respectively with slight decrease of CODCr/TN
ratio.
Properties of the biodegraded FMW were determined to examine the suitability of the
biodegraded FMW as a fertilizer. The result of the phytotoxicity test showed that the
biodegraded FMW required more than 250-fold dilution to reach stabilization of the organic
matter to maintain the long-term fertility in soil. At 1,000-fold dilution, the GI value was
found to be close to 90%, which was comparable to those of commercial fertilizers. The level
of total amino acids in the biodegraded FMW was 5.60 g100g sample-1, which was lower
than those in two commercial fertilizers. Especially, the levels of aspartic acid, alanine and
lysine were low, whereas those of proline and glycine were relatively high. Moreover, the
composition of sulfur-containing amino acids, cysteine and methionine, were relatively high
in the biodegraded FMW. The concentrations of N, P and K in the biodegraded FMW were
1.49, 0.28 and 0.41%, respectively, which were lower than those in commercial fertilizers.
However, the concentrations of noxious components in the biodegraded FMW were much
lower than the standard concentrations. The fertilizing ability of the biodegraded FMW at
various dilution ratios was tested in a hydroponic culture system. The fastest growth in
culture of red bean was achieved at 100-fold dilution, the growth of which was comparable to
those of 1,000-fold diluted commercial-fertilizers.
In the hydroponic culture of barley, the best growth was achieved at 500-fold dilution in
which its growth was seen evenly in root and stem. This growth of barley with the 500-fold
diluted FMW was comparable to that cultivated on 1,000-fold diluted commercial-fertilizers.
From all above results, it was concluded that a large-scale biodegradation of FMW was
successful and the properties of FMW were acceptable as a fertilizer. Consequently, FMW
could be a potential industrial resource for liquid-fertilizer production.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was supported by a grant (B-2004-12) from Marine Bioprocess Research
Center of the Marine Bio21 Center funded by the Ministry of land, Transport and Maritime
Affairs, Republic of Korea.

234

Joong Kyun Kim and Geon Lee

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In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 7

EQUITY OF ACCESS TO PUBLIC PARKS IN


BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND
Andrew P. Jones, Julii Brainard, Ian J. Bateman
and Andrew A. Lovett
Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment,
The School of Environmental Sciences,
University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk, UK.

ABSTRACT
Provision of public parks has long been advocated as an equalising measure between
different elements of society. This study assesses equity of park provision for different
ethnic and income-status populations in the urban area of Birmingham in central
England. Parks in Birmingham were categorized into a two group typology of green areas
suited for more solitary and passive activities (amenity parks) or open spaces designed
more for informal sports or other physical and group activities (recreational parks). Using
a geographical information system, measures of access to these green spaces were
computed for populations of different ethnicities and levels of material deprivation,
derived from data from the 2001 UK Census and the 2004 Index of Multiple Deprivation.
Distance-weighted access scores were calculated and compared for five population
groups ranked by relative deprivation, and for five ethnic groups; Bangladeshis, blacks,
Indians, Pakistanis and whites. Statistical analysis found that there were strong disparities
in access with respect to deprivation whereby the most income-deprived groups were also
the most deprived with regard to access to public parks. There was little evidence of
unequal access between ethnic groups. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Keywords: Environmental equity, accessibility, deprivation, ethnicity, urban parks.

Author for correspondence: Dr Andrew P Jones, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia,
Norwich, Norfolk, NR4 7TJ. Email: a.p.jones@uea.ac.uk Tel: 01603 593127, Fax: 01603 591327.

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Andrew P. Jones, Julii Brainard, Ian J. Bateman et al.

INTRODUCTION
The establishment of urban public parks has its origins in the social ideal of providing
pleasant open space that is free at the point of access, and as such these places have always
been intended to be equally accessible for different social groups. Public urban parks were
originally established, in part, to provide a place where rich and poor could meet on an equal
footing (Young 1996). It is therefore somewhat surprising that relatively few studies
concerned with environmental social justice have examined the provision and accessibility of
open public space for different social groups.
The exact definition of equity of access is difficult to make, and often context specific.
Extended discussion of the general concept of equity is given by Harding and Holdren (1993).
Crompton and Wicks (1988), Marsh and Schilling (1994) and Wicks and Backman (1994)
discuss different approaches to defining or ensuring equity in a planning context. Crompton
and Lue (1992) and Nicholls (2001) consider how equity may be defined with relation to
urban park usage, and which definitions are likely to be practicable and preferred by the
public. We define equity simply as equal opportunity between social groups.
Previous research on equity of access to public parks is limited (see Wolch et al. 2005;
Estabrooks et al. 2003; Nichols 2001; Talen 1997), and we are not aware of any studies for
either a large city or for places outside the USA. Some research from the USA (Payne et al.
2002; Tinsley et al. 2002) reported that ethnic minorities tend to travel further to surveyed
parks, but did not question why this might be. In the UK, DTLR (2001) note that ethnic
minorities tend to visit urban parks less often than white people. The question arises as to
whether this is partly because non-white communities find it more difficult to travel to urban
parks. It is also important to consider whether access to parks is reduced for economically or
socially deprived populations.
The Greater London Authority acknowledge that socially deprived areas in London often
have relatively poor access to green spaces (GLA, 2001), and areas with less green space
seemed to have more benefit claimants and overcrowded households (GLA, 2003).
The relative dearth of work in the UK on the issue of access to urban parks is perhaps
surprising when it is considered how much they are a very visible and publicly-owned
environmental good. The work reported here focuses on differential access between ethnic
minorities and socio-economic groups with respect to urban parks. Our study area is the city
of Birmingham, where we had detailed information on parks, demographic statistics and the
transport network. Birmingham is located in central England (see Figure 1) and is the second
largest city in the UK with just under 1 million residents in the 2001 Census. Approximately
28% of the city population are non-white. In this research we examine equity of access in
terms of neighbourhood ethnicity and socio-economic deprivation.

Equity of Access to Public Parks in Birmingham, England

239

MATERIALS AND METHODS


Data Sources
Our analysis focused on urban rather than regional parks provision, and hence the
boundaries of the city of Birmingham in central England defined the study area. There were
977,087 residents in the city at the time of the 2001 Census.

Figure 1. Amenity and recreational parks in the study area, with visitor survey parks marked
(SF=Summerfield, PHPF=Perry Hall Playing Fields, KHRG=Kinghurst Recreation Grounds).

The project benefited from data derived from a wide variety of sources. These included
the 2001 UK Census, and an existing database of Ordnance Survey (OS) digital data
encompassing the city of Birmingham and the areas immediately beyond the city boundaries.

Andrew P. Jones, Julii Brainard, Ian J. Bateman et al.

240

The Ordnance Survey dataset included property boundary features (OS Landline) and a
detailed road network (OSCAR).
This was augmented with information on the location and type of parks and green spaces
that we obtained from a number of sources. Social surveys were also undertaken to collect
information on park usage. This information was used to model the relationship between
frequency of visits and distance to park entrances.
Our analysis made use of the ArcGIS Geographical Information System (GIS) package.
The application of these various data sources in the research is discussed below.

Birmingham Road Network


We presumed that people would travel to parks via the city road network, either on foot,
by bicycle, or in a vehicle. The Ordnance Survey OSCAR digital map database was used to
extract road centrelines for the entire city and immediately adjacent areas. The data were
produced in early 2000, and hence coincide well with the 2001 Census.

Parks in Birmingham
What qualifies as a park is a subjective judgement. Examples of different typologies of
green and public open spaces are found in Kit Campbell Associates (2001) and DTLR (2002a
and 2002b). These typologies tend to include such open spaces as allotments, canal banks or
public squares. In our analysis we have consider only spaces that would be used for a
particular set of purposes, namely casual recreation. Parks and other green spaces within
Birmingham and up to 500m outside of the city boundaries were located with the use of a city
atlas (Geographers A-Z Map Co., 2000). Precise boundaries for each park area were located
and extracted from the Ordnance Survey digital Landline database. Following the labelling in
the A-Z atlas, four categories of park or green space were distinguished:

Amenity parks refers to leisure gardens, country parks, wildlife centres, woods, fish
ponds, public greens and commons, areas labelled as simply as park, and green
spaces not allocated for other specific undeveloped purposes (such as canal banks,
paved public squares or allotments).
Recreational parks are those designated as recreation grounds, playgrounds,
sports grounds and playing fields not attached to any specific school or
institution.
Specialist sports grounds denotes areas labelled as used for a specific sport, such as
tennis courts, hockey pitches, cricket grounds and golf courses.
Other facilities included cemeteries, school grounds and college or university
grounds.

We consulted both the Birmingham Open Spaces Forum and Birmingham City Council
in devising this typology and both organisations agreed with the manner by which we had
classified parks. Table 1 provides summary statistics for each type of park. Amenity and
recreational parks provide the majority of park provision in the city. Specialist sports grounds

Equity of Access to Public Parks in Birmingham, England

241

and other parks were found to not be generally of open access to nearby communities. We
therefore focus the rest of our analysis on the former two types of green space. Figure 1
shows amenity and recreational parks in the study area.
The large scale of the OS data made it necessary to locate park entrances precisely, and
hence the locations of access points were identified for each park included in our analysis,
and these were digitised into the GIS. The A-Z map and the Landline database were jointly
consulted for this purpose. These sources indicate where parks border roads and where breaks
in surrounding buildings exist to apparently allow pedestrian access to the parks, but they do
not depict the presence of fencing. Moreover, we had no easy way of detecting informal
access routes and points (i.e., cut-throughs over rough ground, or holes in fencing).
Table 1. Main types of park included in each typological category
General Category
Amenity

Including:
Public open space/commons/greens
Ponds and reservoirs
Nature reserves/woods
Country parks
Park farms
Leisure gardens
Public playgrounds
School rough
Other parks not labelled as sporting areas

Number
59
50
31
5
3
2
2
1
89
2821 ha

Recreation grounds
Playing fields
Sports grounds
Paddling pool

105
98
36
1
1308 ha

Golf courses
Bowling greens/pavilions
Cricket grounds
Stadia
Tennis courts
Football grounds
Rugby grounds
Hockey pitch
Leisure centre

24
20
13
8
7
4
3
1
1
1175 ha

Total area
General Recreation

Total area
Specialist Recreation

Total area
Census area boundaries and 2001 population.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) supplied data on population totals, populationadjusted geographical centroids (centre points), and geographical boundaries of Output Areas
(OAs). These are the smallest geographical units in the 2001 Census. There were 3127 OAs
within Birmingham city boundaries, containing an average of 312 persons and 125
households each. Output Area centroids and population totals for them were input to the
SurfaceBuilder computer programme (Martin 1996). SurfaceBuilder generates a surface
depicting the estimated number of persons resident in regularly spaced square areas, or cells.

242

Andrew P. Jones, Julii Brainard, Ian J. Bateman et al.

A cell resolution of 20x20m was used. Because the resulting surface is partially a function of
original centroid locations, the resultant cell values are an imperfect measure of actual
population locations. Furthermore, the fine scale does not necessarily provide an accurate
measure of the number of residents in each individual cell. However, the production of the
surface enabled the easy estimation of accessibility measures that were weighted by relative
population sizes, and it was employed here in the estimation of population accessibility to
parks.

Deprivation and Ethnicity


Information on material deprivation and ethnicity was collected at the scale of Lower
Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs). These contain small groups (typically 4-6 in number) of
contiguous OAs with similar social profiles. There are 641 LSOAs in Birmingham. The
LSOA level is appealing because of the availability of the Index of Multiple Deprivation
(IMD2004; ODPM 2004) for this geographical scale. The IMD2004 comprises of seven
domains describing different types of deprivation including income, access to housing and
services, education, employment, health and disability, skills and training, living
environment, and crime. For this research only the income domain of the IMD2004
(subsequently abbreviated to Inc-IMD2004) was used. The income domain relates to data
collected in 2001 and 2002 on the proportion of the population receiving various types of
means-tested income support, including benefits and tax credits. Hence areas scoring more
highly on Inc-IMD2004 are more materially deprived.
From 2001 Census data, statistics were derived on the percentage population composition
of various ethnic groups. The ethnic categorisations that we used (white, Bangladeshi,
Pakistani, Indian, and black,) were identical to those reported in the Census, and are based on
self-report. For the latter category we combined persons of Caribbean and African heritage
who identified themselves as black in the 2001 Census with persons of mixed white and
black heritage.

Quantification of the Effect of Distance on Accessibility


A number of factors will impact upon the decision to visit a park. Purpose of visit is
likely to shape decisions regarding which park a person might visit, and both seasonality and
time of day can also influence visit patterns (DTLR, 2002a; Scott, 1997). However, the
principal consideration for many is likely to be travel distance. Hence, in order to adequately
measure accessibility, information on the relationship between distance and park usage was
required.
We were unable to find previous research that provided information on distances that
users in Britain travel to visit urban parks. We therefore conducted our own survey. Visitors
to three parks in Birmingham were interviewed during the summer of 2001. Survey parks
were chosen by considering deprivation levels in the area around each. Census wards were
categorised according to their levels of deprivation into the 33% most deprived, 33% least
deprived, and the remaining 33%. One medium-size park was selected for survey in an area

Equity of Access to Public Parks in Birmingham, England

243

dominated by each deprivation tercile: Summerfield Park (most deprived), Perry Hall Playing
Fields (least deprived) and Kingshurst Recreation Grounds (middle).
In total, 117 individuals were interviewed (a minimum of 35 at each park) and asked for
their mode of travel, the full postcode of their outset point, estimated one-way travel time to
reach the park, the number of persons in their visitor party, and reasons for being in the park
that day. Five respondents had to be excluded from subsequent analysis due to them
providing incomplete information (such as an invalid postcode). The outset origin postcode
supplied by each respondent was related to a 100m resolution reference (on the national grid
system) using the Central Postcode Directory held at Manchester University. The road
network distance between this origin and the nearest entrance to the park was then calculated
within the GIS.
Table 2 summarises the characteristics of each park and its visitors. Included are socioeconomic statistics for the origin areas from which visitors came. A trend is apparent where
Summerfield visitors tend to come from the most deprived areas, and Perry Hall park users
tend to originate from the least deprived areas. Otherwise, the most striking features are the
much higher proportion of visitors from predominantly white neighbourhoods to Kinghurst
Park, and an inverse association between the proportion of visitors travelling by car and the
deprivation levels surrounding each park.
Table 2. Summary statistics for the visitor survey locations

Deprivation tercile
Origin Inc-IMD2004 score, 10th90th %ile
(median)
Park size, ha
Median (mean) party size
Mode of travel:
Number of motorists (%)
Number of cyclists (%)
Number of pedestrians (%)
Travel distance:
Median (mean) road distance in metres,
all visitors
Median (mean) road distance in metres,
pedestrians only
Maximum stated travel time amongst nonmotorists (mins)
Maximum modelled travel distance amongst
non motorists (km)
Ethnic composition of neighbourhood
% White, 10th90th %ile (median)
% Bangladeshi, 10th90th %ile (median)
% Indian, 10th90th %ile (median)
% Pakistani, 10th90th %ile (median)
% Black, 10th90th %ile (median)

Summerfield

Kinghurst

Perry Hall

Most deprived
0.23-0.45 (0.39)

Middle
0.14-0.40 (0.27)

Least deprived
0.08-0.47 (0.13)

15.7
2 (3.37)

116
1 (2.26)

62.9
2 (2.36)

7 (20%)
0 (0%)
28 (80%)

11 (34%)
2 (5%)
25 (66%)

15 (38%)
3 (8%)
21 (54%)

311 (705)

420 (1232)

1420 (2194)

225 (395)

288 (814)

717 (923)

22

150

53

1.1

9.6

3.1

17.9-51.7 (42.0)
0-2.3 (1.1)
9.9-32.2 (19.2)
2.7-35.0 (13.9)
10.8-28.5 (18.6)

83.2-97.4 (94.1)
0-0 (0)
0-2.2 (0)
0-3.12 (0.5)
1.1-9.4 (4.5)

11.5-95.7 (36.7)
0-10.2 (1.01)
0-39.5 (16.7)
0-42.3 (6.5)
3.2-30.8 (12.1)

244

Andrew P. Jones, Julii Brainard, Ian J. Bateman et al.

The survey data were used to model the relationship between travel distances and
frequency of visits. A model of the decay relationship between proximity and visit frequency
was developed for all parks. This was used to generate data indicating the level of park
accessibility from any single origin point in Birmingham. There are many possible ways to
derive an accessibility index for an environmental amenity and facility such as public parks.
Haynes et al. (2003) argued the case for a function to measure relative accessibility taking the
form:
P = C * exp (Decay_coefficient * Impedance)
{1}
where
P=Potential or accessibility index
C=Constant
Decay_coefficient = the rate at which accessibility declines per unit of impedance
Impedance = difficulty, usually measured in terms of travel time or distance
A common way to calculate P would be to predict the number of visitor parties from
origin zones as a per capita visitor rate. Unfortunately we did not know what percentage of
the total number of visitors we surveyed at each park. In the absence of this information we
used the number of visits reported by respondents during the preceding four weeks. This has
the advantage of not requiring information about the total number of visitors to the park in
any given period, yet visit frequency can be expected to decline with decreasing distance, and
to reflect, in large part, ease of access.
A distance decay relationship between journey origins and parks in Birmingham was
derived by comparing reported frequency with calculated travel distance in the GIS. The
relationship was generalised by grouping visitors into seven distance bands: 0-250m, 251500m, 501-750m, 751-1000m, 1001-1500m, 1500-2500m and 2500-3500m. Survey
respondents who were only in a park because they were en-route to another location were
excluded from this and further analysis. The average number of visits amongst respondents in
each distance band is plotted against the average calculated travel distance in Figure 2. A
strong and consistent decline is apparent in average visit frequency with increasing average
distance.
Using the functional form depicted in Equation 1, the average number of visits was
regressed against travel distance for Birmingham parks visitors, to produce;
P = 32.0085 * exp(-0.0006398 * distance)
{2}
The high R2 value obtained of 0.922 indicates a strong link between grouped visit
frequency and distance between home origin and the nearest park entrance, and this
relationship was used to model the way by which accessibility will decline with distance.
Based on the results of the above modelling, three accessibility 'potential' surfaces were
generated for recreational, amenity, and combined park areas. This process required the
identification of both designated outset and destination points. Potential population journey
origins were generated at 1420 road junctions throughout Birmingham. Destination points
were taken to be park entrances. Visits are known to increase with park size, but the
relationship between visit frequency and park size may not be linear. In a study of 516 urban
parks in Perth, Australia, Giles-Corti et al. (2005) found that visit frequency was best

Equity of Access to Public Parks in Birmingham, England

245

predicted when they weighted their distance decay function by the natural logarithm of park
size (in ha) raised to the power of 0.85, or
Attractiveness=Distance_Decay_Function * log(size0.85)

{3}

Attractiveness as Giles-Corti et al. defined it equates to visit frequency in this work.


We therefore allocated to each entrance a supply weighting equal to the area (in ha) of that
park, raised to a power of 0.85 and then transformed by natural logarithm. For instance,
Phoenix Park to the south of the city centre measures 1.58 hectares and is classified as
entirely amenity park area. Phoenix has two entrances, each of which was given a supply
weighting of 0.388811 (=log(1.580.85)). Very small parks less than 1 ha were given a supply
weighting of 0.01 to prevent negative values being calculated. Only the nearest entrance for
each origin was considered as an access point, and all of the supply weighting was applied to
that.

No. visits in last 4 weeks

40

Average Number Of Visits in preceding four weeks

35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

3000

3500

Distance (m)

Figure 2. Average number of visits in preceding four weeks plotted against average distance bands.

Within the GIS the distance in metres between each pair of origin and destination points
was calculated. Distances below 110 m were reset to a value of 110, to prevent spuriously
high potential being predicted very close to parks. 110m was chosen because of a natural
break in the original survey data at that point. Next, an interaction score between each origin
and destination was generated using the formula;
SCORE = [32.0085 exp(-0.0006398 * DISTANCE)] * log(HECTARES0.85)

{4}

Subsequently, scores were summed by origin, to yield a single value indicative of park
accessibility for that origin.
A triangulated irregular network (TIN) (Peuker et al. 1976) was generated to estimate
access scores for locations between origin points. The TIN data were sampled on a regular 20
x 20m grid to create potential surfaces. To facilitate interpretation, the potential values were
converted to Z-scores with a mean of zero and a standard deviation of one. The greater the

246

Andrew P. Jones, Julii Brainard, Ian J. Bateman et al.

index value, the better the access to parks for persons travelling from that location. The
resulting values are mapped in Figure 3 for amenity and recreational parks, and Figure 4 for
both park types combined. Figure 3 shows that the northern-central area and the southwest of
the city are well-endowed with amenity type parks. There is a ring of high provision of
recreational type parks around the city centre, whilst the city centre itself and the furthest
suburbs, especially in the north, are relatively poorly provided with this type of park.

Figure 3. Calculated access scores for amenity (left) and recreational (right) parks in Birmingham.

Figure 4. Calculated access scores for amenity and recreational parks combined.

Equity of Access to Public Parks in Birmingham, England

247

Combing the two types of park (Figure 4) the north eastern suburbs and the city centre
itself are most disadvantaged.
The next step was to overlay these surfaces with LSOA boundaries and the population
surface. This enabled us to calculate a population-weighted park access score for each
individual LSOA.

RESULTS
Equality of access to parks for different communities in Birmingham was examined with
respect to both income deprivation and ethnic composition. In order to determine how the
estimates of access were distributed across different populations, tests that compared the
distributions of access scores were undertaken, as discussed below.

Ethnicity and Equity of Access to Public Parks


The population of Birmingham was 70.35% white, 20.16% Asian/mixed Asian and
7.87% black/mixed black in the 2001 Census. To compare park access between these
populations, the percentage of the total Birmingham population in each ethnic group was
determined for each LSOA. For example, the LSOA labelled E01009276 had 166 persons
recorded as black. This equates to 0.216% of the total 76,930 black persons residing inside
the Birmingham city boundaries in 2001. Calculating this percentage of the total for each
LSOA allowed us to determine what proportion of each ethnic group had particular parks
access scores.
Table 3 shows the median access scores for each ethnic group. There are no striking
differences between ethnic groups for amenity parks access, although Pakistani populations
have the best access.
Median scores differ little. However, with respect to recreational or combined parks
access, whites seem to have more advantage over other groups, especially Bangladeshis.
The detailed distributions of park access scores for different ethnic groups were examined
by plotting cumulative frequency distributions against access scores. The resulting plot for
access to amenity parks is shown in Figure 5. The plots for access to recreational parks and
both types combined were similar and are not reproduced here. Park access scores for LSOAs
were divided into fifty categories. Each contains two percent of Birminghams total
population. The horizontal axis shows the upper limit of amenity or recreational access scores
in each category.
Table 3. Median parks access indices for ethnic groups in Birmingham.

Amenity
Recreational
Combined

Indian

Pakistani

Black

Bangladeshi

White

-0.052
0.069
0.145

0.107
0.109
0.193

-0.071
0.131
0.165

-0.101
-0.027
0.045

0.024
0.218
0.247

Andrew P. Jones, Julii Brainard, Ian J. Bateman et al.

248

Cumulative frequency (%) .

100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30

White
Indian
Pakistani
Bangladeshi

20

Black

10

Amenity park access index


0.
46
0.
63
0.
80
1.
02
1.
24
1.
81

0.
32

0.
15

0.
00

.2
0

.0
8
-0

-0

.3
3
-0

.4
6
-0

.6
5

-0

.1
1

.8
8
-0

-1

-1

.4
6

Figure 5. Cumulative probability distributions for specified ethnic groups and access to amenity parks.

The vertical axis plots cumulative percentages. A perfectly straight diagonal line on the
plots would indicate that the given range of potential scores occurred equally often across that
ethnic group. This is because each category contains an equal proportion of the city
population and the horizontal axis is non-linear. Lines that deviate from a perfect diagonal
suggest a population displacement towards higher or lower access scores. Percentile lines
bulging to the left of a perfect diagonal indicate a population group with relatively lower than
average access, whilst lines pushed to the right suggest superior access. The greater the
vertical gaps between the cumulative percentile lines, the more likely it is that an inequality is
occurring between groups.
A robust way to test for differences in the data in cumulative distribution plots is to use
the Kolmogorov-Smirnov (KS) test (Connover, 1999). This test assesses the significance of
the relative distance between the cumulative frequency lines. A two-sample KS test was used
to examine the differences in population distribution between the various subgroups. Table 4
provides the resultant KS values, with the critical values at p=0.1, 0.05 and 0.01 levels.
Table 4. Kolmogorov-Smirnov statistics for two-sample tests comparing cumulative
probability distributions for ethnic groups and parks access
Amenity
White
Indian
Pakistani
Black

Indian
0.0776

Pakistani
0.0776
0.0996

Black
0.0704
0.0448
0.1230

Bangladeshi
0.1296
0.0775
0.1572
0.0884

Equity of Access to Public Parks in Birmingham, England

249

Table 4 Continued
Recreational
Indian
0.0701

White
Indian
Pakistani
Black

Combined Amenity and Recreational


Indian
White
0.0610
Indian
Pakistani
Black

Pakistani
0.0823
0.0353

Black
0.0870
0.0535
0.0508

Bangladeshi
0.1375
0.0949
0.1153
0.0986

Pakistani
0.0514
0.0527

Black
0.0739
0.0694
0.0334

Bangladeshi
0.1381
0.0901
0.1010
0.1113

Critical KS values for p=0.1, 0.05 and 0.01 are 0.1725, 0.1923 and 0.2305 respectively.

The KS statistics confirmed the visual impression from the figures that there is no
significant inequity between ethnic groups and their relative access to different categories of
park type. The greatest differences occur between white and Bangladeshi populations, but
these do not reach statistical significance.

Deprivation and Equity of Access to Public Parks


Table 5 gives the median park access score for five deprivation groups (Inc-IMD2004
quartile groups and the most deprived decile) and by type of park. Figures 6 to 8 plot the
cumulative percentiles of population in each Inc-IMD2004 quartile (plus the top decile)
against amenity/recreational/combined parks access scores. Table 6 presents KS statistics for
the data in the figures.
The table and figures show that, for Amenity parks, there is some indication of disparities
in access between the different deprivation groups, with the poorest population cohorts
having worse access compared to other deprivation groups (p<0.01). For recreational parks,
and both park types combined these disparities are much stronger with the most deprived
population groups having significantly poorer access than the others. The middle two
deprivation quartiles tended to have better accessibility than the other groups, with the most
affluent quartile having comparatively average park access.
Table 5. Median access scores for each income deprivation group, by park type

Amenity
Recreational
Combined

Quartile 1
(least
deprived)
-0.030
0.027
0.248

Quartile 2

Quartile 3

0.268
0.422
0.423

0
0.3
0.270

Quartile 4
(most
deprived)
-0.079
-0.220
-0.043

Decile 10
(10% most
deprived)
-0.148
-0.505
-0.268

Andrew P. Jones, Julii Brainard, Ian J. Bateman et al.

250

Table 6. Kolmogorov-Smirnov statistics for two-sample tests comparing cumulative


probability distributions for Inc-IMD2004 and park access
Amenity

Quartile 1 (least deprived)


Quartile 2
Quartile 3
Quartile 4 (most deprived)

Quartile 2

Quartile 3

Quartile 4

0.1509

0.1214
0.1878*

0.1778*
0.2349***
0.1086

Quartile 2

Quartile 3

Quartile 4

0.2573***

0.2261**
0.0968

0.2111**
0.4073***
0.3239***

Quartile 2

Quartile 3

Quartile 4

0.2416***

0.1960**
0.1470

0.2347***
0.3478***
0.2438***

Decile 10
(10% most deprived)
0.2037**
0.2589***
0.1545
0.0568

Recreational

Quartile 1 (least deprived)


Quartile 2
Quartile 3
Quartile 4 (most deprived)

Decile 10
(10% most deprived)
0.4101***
0.6574***
0.5961***
0.2853***

Combined Amenity and Recreational

Quartile 1 (least deprived)


Quartile 2
Quartile 3
Quartile 4 (most deprived)

Decile 10
(10% most deprived)
0.4302***
0.5806***
0.5048***
0.2610***

Amenity park access index

Quartile1
Quartile2
Quartile3
Quartile4
Decile10

-1
.4
6
-1
.0
4
-0
.7
1
-0
.4
6
-0
.2
8
-0
.1
2
0.
00
0.
20
0.
43
0.
63
0.
86
1.
17
1.
81

100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0

Cumulative frequency (%)

Critical KS values for p=0.1, 0.05 and 0.01 are respectively 0.1725 (*), 0.1923 (**) and 0.2305 (***).

Figure 6. Cumulative probability distributions for specified deprivation groups and access to amenity
parks.

251

Quartile1
Quartile2
Quartile3
Quartile4
Decile10

0.
00
0.
18
0.
32
0.
50
0.
66
0.
90
1.
28
2.
06

.1
7
-0

.3
5
-0

.5
3
-0

.8
2

Recreational park access index

-0

-1

.5
6

100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0

Cumulative frequency (%)

Equity of Access to Public Parks in Birmingham, England

Quartile1
Quartile2
Quartile3
Quartile4
Decile10

0.
05
0.
23
0.
34
0.
48
0.
61
0.
82
1.
10
1.
76

.0
5
-0

.2
3
-0

.4
5
-0

.6
8

Combined park access index

-0

-1

.5
6

100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0

Cumulative frequency (%)

Figure 7. Cumulative probability distributions for specified deprivation groups and access to
recreational parks.

Figure 8. Cumulative probability distributions for specified deprivation groups and amenity and
recreational parks combined.

DISCUSSION
Relatively little previous research has addressed the question of the differential access to
green spaces amongst diverse communities residing in urban areas. Using a case study of the

252

Andrew P. Jones, Julii Brainard, Ian J. Bateman et al.

city of Birmingham England, this study has sought to go some way to rectify this deficiency
by assessing the distribution of access to urban parks amongst a diverse urban population.
Our analysis found only weak evidence of disparities in access between different ethnic
groups in the population. However, we found very statistically significant indications of
unequal access to public parks with regard to income deprivation, whereby the most deprived
population had the poorest access to parks. Of course this cross sectional observation does
not, in itself, provide an insight into the reasons why these disparities may exist.
Pearce (2003) contended that environmental equity studies are often flawed because they
ignore a fundamental aspect of capitalism, that the rich have the ability to pay for a nicer
place to live. He took an economic perspective, arguing that equity could only be properly
assessed with respect to how much each community paid for a benefit (or to avoid a
disamenity), and whether their benefits or costs were commensurate with those payments.
Pearces arguments are supported by many North American studies (see Been and Gupta
1997; Lambert and Boerner 1997; Mitchell et al. 1999; Szasz and Meuser 2000; Yandle and
Burton 1996), which concluded that apparently unfair pollution burdens usually result from
economic not racist factors, particularly from a move-in of minority and poor social groups,
due to lower house prices for instance, after an environmental nuisance was created. Indeed, it
is quite possible that the residents of poorer communities in our study may receive other
benefits which compensate for their poorer access to urban parks. It is also noteworthy that
the most affluent populations did not have the best access, again suggesting that
compensatory mechanisms, possibly associated with the availability of private land, were
present. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the concept of equal access for all was one
of the principles upon which the public parks movement was founded.
It could be argued that, due to economic forces, improvements in park provision may
only achieve temporary gains for otherwise disadvantaged populations. As the environment in
an area improves, wealthier social groups may be attracted to it, making it difficult for the
original disadvantaged social group to remain in the now improved area. These exclusionary
processes may operate, for example, via rising housing costs or more general issues of social
prejudice. This perspective ignores, however, the value of short and medium term gains in
environmental quality in the lives of the original area inhabitants. Furthermore, house price
rises due to improved environmental conditions may enable existing home-owners in the area
to pass on more wealth to their children which is a permanent improvement for the next
generation.
As with any study, our results will in part be influenced by aspects of our study location
and chosen methodology. Our findings are based on a detailed analysis undertaken in a
socially and environmentally diverse, yet singular, urban area. We chose to study
Birmingham due to the interest generated by this diversity, coupled with availability of very
high quality data in the city. From our analysis it is not possible to determine whether similar
associations would be apparent elsewhere. However, our research has demonstrated the
application of a methodological framework that could be readily applied in other contexts.
We also assume that the distribution of households, with respect to deprivation and ethnicity,
within each LSOA is uniform. In reality, this will not be the case, although we chose to study
LSOAs because of their small size and hence relatively homogeneous nature. In our
development of a park typology, we attempted to select locations that would be available and
attractive for recreational use amongst the general population. However, any such typological
classification will be, at least in part, subjective. It is possible for example that in some areas,

Equity of Access to Public Parks in Birmingham, England

253

patches or waste land or other types of green space may compensate for poor availability of
parks or enhance current levels of provision by providing some of the same functions.
In our study we have measured access in terms of road distances, and our only measure
of quality has been the size of the parks. In reality, of course, quality is multifaceted and
will be associated with a range of factors surrounding facility provision and standards of
maintenance. Research suggests that there is a national trend for deprived areas to contain
parks with relatively poorer maintenance, and since the 1960s, support for provision of open
spaces in urban areas has declined (ILAM Services and Harding 2000, Urban Parks Forum,
2001). The focus of investment and facility development has shifted instead to suburban and
rural country parks (Reeves, 2000). This tendency to suffer from under-investment has led to
a loss of perceived amenity value, most noticeably in inner city locations. Given that the
poorest populations and members of ethnic minorities in Birmingham (and most big cities)
tend to reside in inner city areas, this means that levels of disadvantage may be greater than
those apparent from the comparisons we have made if more subtle aspects of quality of
provision are considered.
The findings of this study reveal reduced access to a public environmental amenity
among certain social groups, in particular those living in the most deprived communities. The
lack of open-air sports facilities may well have consequences for general health levels in each
population, given that public open spaces are increasingly recognised as important places for
physical exercise (see Bedimo-Rung et al. 2005; Foster et al. 2005; Giles-Corti et al. 2005;
Hillsdon et al. 2006; Jones et al. 2007). Therefore, although our findings relate directly to
social inequities, they may have public health implications as well.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was supported by the Programme in Environmental Decision Making at
CSERGE which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. We are grateful to
to Professor David Martin (University of Southampton) who assisted with the SurfaceBuilder
computer program and to Emma Woolf (BOSF) and Valerie Edwards (BCC) for providing
feedback on our typology scheme.

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historical hazardous waste landfill siting patterns in metropolitan Texas. Social Science
Quarterly 77, 477-492.
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a better America. Journal of Historical Geography 22, 460-472.

In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 8

AN IDEA FOR PHENOMENOLOGICAL THEORY OF


LIVING SYSTEMS
Svetla E. Teodorova
Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy,
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 72 Tzarigradsko chaussee,
1784 Sofia, Bulgaria

ABSTRACT
An idea for developing of new science field, biodynamics, as biophysical
macroscopic theory is propounded. The functioning of living organism as an organized
entirety is the main specificity of the life. Hence it is quite reasonable to describe
behaviour of biological systems in terms of own theoretical basis. In this article a new
state variable vitality as integral characteristic of biological object and measure unit bion
are stated. A quantity biological energy is introduced as energy form related to biological
selfregulation. Quantity synergy is suggested as measure of selfregulation quality.
Biological principle for maximum synergy in healthy living systems is stated. On the
basis of variational principle an equation describing recovery process of a biological
object after disturbance is obtained. The quantity optimal vitality, related to homeostasis,
decreases in lifespan scale and its evolution is described by ordinary differential equation.
The potential lifespan maximum of several species at different life conditions may be
calculated at different parameters of the equation. A wide range of environmental
influences on the living organism could be promptly and easily assessed in the terms
of the biodynamics approach. Such an approach could be used for a simple estimation of
a patients health status.

INTRODUCTION
XX century brought colossal discoveries in the field of molecular biology. In the same
time unified theory of living mater on phenomenological level is not created. Such a theory
could help study the behaviour of the native biological object (BO) in its entirety. This may
be a new step in exploration of living systems in the context of environmental condition

258

Svetla E. Teodorova

changes, diseases etc. The great complexity and different organization levels of BOs
embarrass a direct application of physical theories to biological systems. Notwithstanding,
serious attempts have been made to describe quantitatively different aspects of the life
phenomena on the basis of physical theories thermodynamics, electromagnetism,
hydrodynamics, quantum mechanics etc. Shrdinger (1944) suggested that the essence of the
life is that living organisms consume negative entropy (negentropy). Goodwin (1963) tried to
create a biological statistical mechanics and thermodynamics on the basis of kinetics of
synchronized biochemical oscillators. Rosen (1967) formulated optimal principles in biology.
Szent-Gyrgyi (1968) elucidated some mechanisms of cell regulation in the terms of
bioelectronics. Prigogine and Nicolis (1978) developed theory of dissipative structures, as an
extended irreversible thermodynamics, to explain self-organization processes in
nonequilibrium systems. Davidov (1979) gave a quantum-mechanical interpretation of some
biological phenomena. Thermodynamic approach was applied to the structure and functions
of macromolecules (Di Cera 2001). Kleidon and Lorenz (2005) presented a coherent study of
geosphere-biosphere couplings in the context of maximum entropy production principle.
Kurzynski (2005) proposed a thermodynamic approach combined with describing of
molecular machines. Many authors emphasized the great importance of information in the
functioning of BO. Quastler (1964) represented the problems of the emergence of biological
organization on the basis of biological aspect of information. Trincher (1965) tried to extend
thermodynamics via introducing of a concept of structural information in BO. Eigen (1971)
explained the evolution of macromolecular structures taking into account laws of information
exchange. Volkenstein (1994) considered life evolution in its informational aspects.
The great significance of all these considerations, however, does not abolish the need of a
general phenomenological approach to BOs. Phenomena as thermal conductivity, diffusion,
electric current etc. are not describable in the terms of mechanics and thus new fields as
thermodynamics and electrodynamics with their concepts and laws were created. On
thermodynamic level it is not possible to underline the essence of life. All attempts to
construct an extended thermodynamics of irreversible processes, including living matter,
remain artificial and not quite adequate. Blmenfeld (1967; 1974) noted that the true way to a
general life theory is not a creation of biological thermodynamics.
Really, the thermodynamic and electrodynamic laws are valid for different aspects of BO
functioning but they do not explain the essence of life selfregulation and behaviour of BO in
its entirety. A new science field BIODYNAMICS is needed.
Indeed, the biological regulation has been regarded in details in cybernetic aspect. Our
view is, however, that the biological selfregulation should be an object also of physics.
Although the life activity is based on biophysical and biochemical processes the perfect
co-ordination of these processes forms already a new quality of matter organization. Thus, it
is advisably to put in correspondence of BO behaviour new type quantities as integral
characteristics of BO on macroscopic level. Here we introduce the quantity vitality as a
basic biodynamic quantity. Thus, the following juxtaposition can be stated:
Classic dynamics mass
Electrodynamics charge, field intensity
Chromodynamics colour charge
Thermodynamics temperature, pressure, concentrations etc.
Biodynamics vitality

An Idea for Phenomenological Theory of Living Systems

259

Naturally new type of measurements should be expected. The author presumes a creation
of a new device and believes that by means of such a device one will be able directly to
measure vitality in the future.
Such an approach will avoid the great complexity in the quantitative description of living
systems via thermodynamics, chemical kinetics etc.
The attention in this article is drawn on recovery processes of BO after disturbances
running in time intervals much shorter compared to BO lifespan. On the other hand, the
evolution of optimal vitality during the lifespan of BO is studied.

A POSSIBLE THEORETICAL BASIS OF BIODYNAMICS


We think BO as a macroscopic object, which saves its features and character only in its
integrity. The living system demonstrates a new level of material organization non-described
previously in physics.
We introduce a new quantity, vitality (V) uniquely determining the state of a given BO.
Thus V is an integral characteristic of BO functioning in its entirety. In thermodynamics the
temperature is a measure of kinetic energy of the molecules. In biodynamics the vitality
should be a measure of the health status of BO. Obviously, vitality is related to the
informational aspect of BO functioning. We propose the respective measurement unit of the
vitality in SI system to be called bion (b).
We assume that V could be in principle measured by a new type device vitalimeter.
Such an instrument should measure some electromagnetic wave emitting by BO, a wave (or
wave complex) being an integral characteristic of BO functioning. Electromagnetic waves of
different frequencies, generated by human, animal and plant organisms in their metabolic
activity were measured yet many years ago (Presman 1968). The explorations in this way
were continued (Godik and Guljaev 1991; Elizarov 1997). The recent development of
advanced technologies have been gone rather far and this fact promises well success in
searching of some device, reflecting resultant information about BO. A new constructed
apparatus, being able to detect some wave as integral BO characteristic, could be calibrated in
a manner that to show V in bions. For instance, one bion may be defined so that the excellent
standard of humans health corresponds to vitality of 100 bions.
Not only the frequency/length of the wave but also the wave amplitude gives information
for BO status. Thus, at least two new quantities should be defined. However, here for
simplicity we shall take into account only one quantity (understanding, for instance, the
wavelength). Here we are not interested in the incidence of the wave in the space. The very
value of the vitality at a certain moment is important.
We introduce also a quantity optimal vitality (W). That is the optimal vitality value,
corresponding to state of excellent health of BO and reflecting homeostasis characteristics
evolutionarily established for the respective species. W is genetically determined and in time
intervals much shorter compared to lifespan it may be regarded as a constant. During the life,
however, W decreases due to aging processes. After different transitory disturbances in BO
status V temporarily can deflect from optimal vitality, i. e. V W. Then a transitional process
is running and V W. That is a recovery process.

Svetla E. Teodorova

260

The total energy E of a natural system is sum of the mechanical energy EM, and internal
energy EI (Gyarmati 1970):
E = EM + E I
The internal energy contains heat energy, chemical energy etc. (Prigogine and Defay
1954):
dEI = dQ pdv + idni
It is reasonable to establish in biodynamics a respective specific energy. We shall cal it
biological energy (B). We could suppose that it is a function of V (t) and V (t) (where V is
the rate of change of the vitality in time):
B = B (V, V )
The biological energy should be a part of internal energy:
dEI = dQ pdv + idni + dB
B is the energy providing biological selfregulation (on the basis of enzyme synthesis,
resonance energy transfer between biological macromolecules, electric charge transfer,
immune response etc.). All these energies in macroscopic aspect could be denoted as
biological energy B.
We introduce also a state function synergy G (V), which uniquely determines the state of
a given BO:

dG

dB
V

(1)

as a measure of the quality of the BO selfregulation (therefore, of the biological organization).


G reflects the degree of coordination and synchronization of the regulatory links in BO. It
could be an indicator of BO health and youth. G is genetically determined. G increases in
organism growth as well as in training processes. In aging processes, in severe and chronic
diseases G decreases. In a mature and healthy BO the synergy G as almost constant G(V) =
G(W).

RECOVERY PROCESS AFTER DISTURBANCE


When a BO is disturbed (acute disease, trauma, intoxication, environmental influence
etc.) and its normal life parameters are violated, i. e. W V(t) 0, the genetic information
potential switches feedback control (repair, immune system reaction, enzyme synthesis etc.)
to restore BO to its physiological homeostasis. A recovery process starts. We assume that in
case of damages V(t) < W. Here we consider recovery processes, running in time interval
much shorter compared to the lifespan of BO.
Now we try to define the balance of biological energy in phenomenological aspect.

An Idea for Phenomenological Theory of Living Systems

261

We assume the genome energy as composite of two parts: potential genome energy UW
and recovery energy UV:
U = UW + UV
(2)
The quantity UW = const is characteristic for a given species. The recovery energy UV, should
be proportional to the difference W V(t), i. e. UV = k (W V). UV should be a positive
function; hence we may present it as a positive determined quadratic form:

UV

1
K (W V ) 2
2

(3)

where K ([K] = [kg m2 b2 s2]) is the genome inductivity, representing the integral feedback
control strength. It is clear that UV has minimum at V(t) = W. Therefore, in a non-disturbed
state BO does not spend recovery energy.
We assume that the power of immune response P, expressed on phenomenological level,
should be proportional to the rate of change of the vitality. To be a positive function P should
be constructed as follows:

P MV 2

(4)

where M ([M] = [kg m2 b2 s1]) is coefficient of immune memory.


The immune response has a cumulative effect. The state of a BO at a given moment
depends not only on the synthesis of immune factors at that moment but on the summary
effect of immune response in all prior moments. Therefore the immune reaction energy Z in
the recovery process should have the form:
t

t0

t0

Z (t ) Pd MV 2 d

(5)

Because BO behavior is considered on phenomenological level, we are interested in the


total effect of immune response and here we do not differentiate cell and humoral immunity.
We assume that the constant M characterizes the total immune potential of BO.
The accomplishment of the recovery process may be embarrassed due to waste products
of metabolism (non-fully oxidized substances, macromolecules damaged by free radicals) and
toxicants (heavy metals, bacterial and virus toxins etc.) occurring in cell and decreasing the
efficiency of metabolic processes and cell selfregulation. Therefore, the total biological
energy B could decrease at expense of energy of metabolic resistance R. It is reasonable to
suppose that R is proportional to the rate of change of the vitality. To be a positive function R
could be defined in the form:

1 2
AV
2

where A ([A] = [kg m2 b2]) is coefficient of metabolic resistance.

(6)

Svetla E. Teodorova

262

One can write the following equation for the balance of biological energy B:
dB = dU + dZ dR

(7)

We define

dU
K (W V )
dV

and

dP
2 MV
dV

(8)

as biological force of feedback control and force of immune reactivity, respectively. Their
dimension is: [U] = [Z] = [kg m2 b1 s2].
We define also

dR
AV
dV

(9)

as impulse of metabolic resistance. Its dimension is [L] = [kg m2 b1 s1].


We assume that the functioning of the healthy living systems is based on the following
biological principle:
G(W) = max G(V)

(10)

It means that in its optimal, undisturbed state BO has a synergy maximum. G(W)
corresponds to excellent health. For recovery processes it follows from (10):
dG > 0

(11)

Taking into account (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9) and (11) we can write:

dG

(dV LdV )
>0
V

(12)

where is the total recovery force

1
U Z
2

(13)

It follows from (12) that the expression

dV LdV > 0
is a condition for fully BO recovery.

(14)

An Idea for Phenomenological Theory of Living Systems

263

One of the most profound concepts in theoretical physics is that the equations of motion
in different fields of physics can be obtained on the basis of integral variational principles.
The well known variational principle of Hamilton allows a common treatment of dynamic
problems in mechanics, electrodynamics, optics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics etc.
By means of appropriately chosen Lagrangeans the basic equations in physics can be
introduced. This approach has a great heuristic concern. The presence of variation principles
in all physics fields clearly shows that a basic nature law takes place. This promises that in
fields, where no other approaches exist, a variational principle from the Hamilton type could
help to obtain adequate equations, describing the characteristic processes.
We propose the following integral principle:
T

(U Z R)dt max

(15)

t0

choosing the Lagrangean: L = L (V (t), V (t), t) = U + Z R,


where U, Z and R are determined by the equations (2), (3), (5) and (6).
After variation of (15)

( ) 0 0

(16)

where is an arbitrary parameter, the following biodynamic equation is obtained:

2M
K
KW
V
V
A 2 M (T t )
A 2 M (T t )
A 2 M (T t )

(17)

under initial conditions:

V (t0 ) V0

and

V (t0 ) V0

(18)

V0 is the state of disturbed BO from where the recovery process starts and V0 is the start
rate of time change of V. T is the time period of the recovery process. The equation (17) has a
physical sense and aperiodic solutions when the following conditions are valid:
A > 2MT

(19)

M2 > (A 2MT) K

(20)

Obviously, at a given value of M, in greater contamination of the organism (higher A


value) the time T of the recovery process will be longer.
The stationary solution of equation (17) is a stable knot.

Svetla E. Teodorova

264

Equation (17) is solved numerically. Some solutions at different values of the parameters
are displayed in Figure 1. The value of T = 10 days was arbitrary assumed for the recovery
process after some disturbance (for instance: influenza, poisoning, burn etc.). We stated that
the normal state of BO corresponds to W = 100 bions. We chose an arbitrary value for the
start of recovery process: V0 = 60 bions. In principle, on the basis of many empirical data one
can determine the real average recovery time periods for different diseases and damages and
real W for different species and ages. Using them the characteristic parameters in equation
(17) can be calculated.

Figure 1. Time courses of the quantity vitality during the recovery period as numerical solutions of
equation (17). The time interval of 10 days for the recovery period after some disturbance was arbitrary
chosen (T = 10). A value of 100 bions for optimal vitality was assumed (W = 100). The initial condition
was V0 = 60 bions. The displayed time courses were calculated at different values of characteristic
constants: A = 9, M = 0.4, K = 0.93 (over-shoot curve); A = 11, M = 0.5, K = 0.17; A = 12, M = 0.5, K =
0.13.

Time courses of several biological parameters, similar to these shown in Figure 1, are
very typical for different transitory processes in biological systems.

SINERGY AND ENTROPY CHANGES DURING THE LIFESPAN OF A


BIOLOGICAL OBJECT
In lifespan scale the following cases could be distinguished regarding the synergy G and
entropy S changes:
During development and growth
dG > 0

dS > 0

dG > dS

Near completion of development and growth

An Idea for Phenomenological Theory of Living Systems


G = max

265

dS > 0

3) At mature age
dG 0
dS > 0

dG < dS

4) At aging
dG < 0

dS > 0

dG dS

5) Death
G=0

S = max

What means the inequality dG < dS at mature age? G can remain almost constant during
many years (maximum comfort conditions for BO) or decrease weakly (dG 0). But this
decrease is less compared to entropy increase (i. e. notwithstanding that the entropy increase
leads to age changes in macromolecules and structures, the integrity of the regulatory links
remains or changes slower than structure aging). The synergy is not reciprocal to entropy. The
inequality dG < dS shows the stability of BO selfregulation. For instance, the genetic
functions demonstrate a relative resistance against to the chronic action of damaging agents,
particularly heavy metals (Topashka-Ancheva et al. 2003). The difference in changes of
entropy and synergy once more indicates that via thermodynamics (in spite of its adjustment
to biological systems) one does not attain adequate description of the life processes.

EVOLUTION OF OPTIMAL VITALITY (W) DURING THE LIFESPAN OF A


BIOLOGICAL OBJECT
Up to now we considered the optimal vitality W as a constant quantity because our
attention was drawn only on processes much shorter compared to the lifespan. The optimal
vitality W, however, decreases in lifespan scale due to aging processes (genetic mutations,
alterations in the regulatory links of genetic apparatus and hence quantitative and qualitative
changes of proteins and attenuation of their self-renewal (Frolkis 1969). The simplest
quantitative assumption about W evolution during the life is that the rate of W change is
proportional to the time:

dW
qt
dt

(21)

where q ([q] = [b s2]) is a parameter reducing the optimal vitality. We call it aging factor.
The parameter q should be a time function. The temp of the aging is most intensive after
the age of 25 years (in human) and then it decreases with time (Strehler 1962). Quantitatively
this could be expressed by the following differential equation:

Svetla E. Teodorova

266

dq
q
dt

(22)

under initial condition


q0 = q(t0),

t0 = 25 years

(23)

where q0 ([q0] = [b s2]) and ([] = [s1]). The constant can be called aging correction,
because at higher values of the parameter q decreases faster with time and hence, as
follows from (21), the rate of aging decreases. Respectively, when q decreases slowly the
aging processes go faster.
The analytical solution of (22) is

q q0 e

(t t0 )

(24)

Taking into account (24) the equation (21) can be written as

dW
(t t0 )
q0 e
t
dt

(25)

The analytical solution of (25) is

W W0

q0
q
q
(t0 1) 0 te ( t t0 ) 02 e ( t t0 )
2

(26)

The constant may be determined from the solution (24) after taking a logarithm:
ln q = ln q0 (t t0)

(27)

The equation (27) is an equation of a straight line with angular coefficient . Using the
values of q, a plot of ln (q q0) as a function of t t0 could be constructed and determined.
The q-values could be calculated in the following way. Human individuals in perfect
(accordingly to the respective age) health could be selected in different age groups ranging by
five years (2530, 3035, 3540 etc.). Within these groups q may be considered
approximately constant. Then the analytical solution of equation (21) has the form:

W W0

1 2
qt
2

(28)

and respectively:

2(W0 W )
t2

(29)

An Idea for Phenomenological Theory of Living Systems

267

W-values for the different age groups could be empirically measured (of course under a
reliable statistics) and on the basis of (29) values of q, specific for the respective age periods,
could be calculated. The value of q0 may be determined in individuals of 2426 years old. If
the constants q0 and were known W(t) would be drawn. Thus, we shall have a picture of a
normal aging, i. e. aging in individuals, who are not burden with chronic diseases. The same
procedure could be applied in people with certain chronic diseases, in smokers, etc. It is seen
from (29) that at a greather difference W0 W the parameter q has a higher walue. For
instance, at age 60 years W of a sick man will be less than W of a healthy man (Wsick <
Whealthy) and respectively W0 Wsick > W0 Whealthy. Therefore, qsick > qhealthy. This indicates a
faster aging process in the sick. In illness at young age the value of q0 may be higher than the
normal and this could reflect on the further life and aging pace.
In most cases the life mode can play a significant role for q modification. The healthful
nutrition, going in for sports, natural regimen etc. could increase -constant in large extent.
Consequently the rate of q decrease increases and hence the duration of the individual life
could increase.

Figure 2. Evolution of the optimal vitality W during the lifespan. The maximum value of optimal
vitality W is assumed of 100 bions. In human context it should correspond to the age of 25 years. A
value of 30 bions is assumed as Wcr. Three analytical solutions (26) of W (t) are drawn, calculated at
different values of the parameters (q0 = 0.01, = 0.0061; q0 = 0.01, = 0.0012; q0 = 0.015, = 0.0012).
The respective curves cross the dotted line Wcr in points corresponding to 150, 125, and 102 years.
These points could be considered as possible potential maximums of life duration at different
conditions.

In Figure 2 analitical solutions of equation (26) are presented. They are calculated under
initial conditions W0 = W(t0) = 100 bions and t0 = 25 years and at different values of the
parameters q0 and . The value Wcr corresponds to that value of vitality, under that the
selfregulation falls and life recovery processes are impossible. The values of X-axis,
corresponding to the points of the dotted line, indicate the lifespan of Homo sapiens in
different conditions. The points TWcr correspond to the absolutely life potential in the
respective conditions, not to the real end of the individual life. Usually the concrete lifespan is

268

Svetla E. Teodorova

(much) shorter than TWcr (often due to different fortuitous factors). In principle TWcr may be
considered as genetically determined possible lifespan maximum for a given species but it
could vary in a wide range depending on diseases, life conditions, and life mode.

CONCLUSION
It is impossible to deduce macro-characteristics of living systems on the basis of the
numerous processes on molecular level. Because of that it will be a great benefit to have a
measurable (one or a few) macro-characteristic(s) uniquely determining the status of BO as
an entire unit. Thus, the behaviour of BO would be explored and predicted. In exemplification
of this idea here we considered the simplest case of only one integral variable vitality V.
Such an approach is very important not only for practical purposes. It is also of great
theoretical significance. Biological selfregulation provides a new quality of matter. It is quite
reasonable to evaluate the state of living matter in terms of specific energy form. No kind of
energy known in physics can be put in correspondence to biological selfregulation in order to
explain its integrity. The health of BO essentially depends on selfregulation quality and it
seems to be very tempting to assess BO via adequate quantities. Thus, the creating of new
science field, biodynamics, could be a substantial step to a more profound study of living
matter.
The general responses of BO to environmental, therapeutic, and other influences as well
as to diseases could be effectively studied. Biodynamics approach will be of a great
importance in medicine for diagnosis and therapy. A simple and prompt assess of the healthy
status of the patients could be made and in patients files abreast of the other data could be
added data as vitality V , optimal vitality, and synergy G as important integral biomarkers.
Valuable evaluations could be carrid out about the aging rate and life duration via studing of
optimal vitality W evolution. Many empirical investigations could provide reliable data for
determining the characteristic lifespan TWcr for several species. Essential correlations could be
established between environmental conditions specificity and mean human lifespan.
Satisfactory values of the parameters introduced here (K, M, A, q0, and ) may be
determined via experiments, but it is also of essential interest to attempt to express these
constants as functions of some parameters of BO on molecular level. For this purpose many
targeted empirical research are needed.
Naturally, new device is needed to measure such quantities. The author is optimist
regarding the further technical development and the possibility to study the vital status of BO
via integral characteristics. The author hopes that the idea shared here may stimulate the
scientific thought for further efforts toward development of a phenomenological life theory.

REFERENCES
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Bljumenfeld, L. A. (1974). Problems of Biological Physics. Moskow: Naouka Publishing
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Davidiv, A. (1979). Biology and Quantum Mechanics Kiev: Naukova Dumka Publishing
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Di Cera, E. (ed) (2001). Thermodynamics in Biology. Oxford-New York: Oxford University
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Eigen, M. (1971). Molekulare Selbstorganistion und Evolution (Self organization of matter
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objects. Measurement Techniques (Springer) 40 (7), 700-707.
Frolkis, V. V. (1969) The Nature of Aging. Moskow: Naouka Publishing House.
Godik, E. E. and Guljaev, Yu. V. (1991). The human being through Eyes of Radiophysics.
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Goodwin, B. C. (1963). Temporal Organization in Cells. London: Academic Press Inc. Ltd.
Gyarmati, I. (1970). Non-equilibrium thermodynamics: Field theory and variational
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Kleidon, A and Lorenz, R. D. (2005). Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics and the Production
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Kurzynski, M. (2005). The Thrrmodynamic Machinery of Life. Berlin-Heiderlberg-New
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Nicolis, G. and Prigogine, I. (1978). Self-organization in Nonequilibrium Systems. From
Dissipative Structures to Order through Fluctuations. New York-London-SydneyToronto: John Wiley and Sons.
Presman, A. S. (1968) Electromagnetic fields and living nature. Moskow: Naouka Publishing
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Prigogine, I. and Defay, R. (1954). Chemical thermodynamics. London-New York-Toronto:
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Quastler, H. (1964). The Emergence of Biological Organization. New Haven and London:
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Rosen, R. (1967). Optimality Principles in Biology. London: Butterworths.
Shrdinger, E. (1944). What is Life? Cambridge: University Press.
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Topashka-Ancheva, M., Metcheva, R., Teodorova, S. E. (2003). Bioaccumulation and
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Springer Verlag.

In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 9

A NEW TRAIT OF GENTOO PENGUIN:


POSSIBLE RELATION TO ANTARCTICA
ENVIRONMENTAL STATE?
Roumiana Metcheva1, Vladimir Bezrukov2, Svetla E.
Teodorova3, and Yordan Yankov4
1

Institute of Zoology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1,


Bd.Tzar Osvoboditel, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
2
Department of General and Molecular Genetics,
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv,
64 Volodymyrska Str., Kyiv, 01033, Ukraine
3
Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy,
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 72, Tzarigradsko shaussee,
1784 Sofia, Bulgaria
4
Bulgarian Antarctic Institute, 15, Bd.Tzar Osvoboditel,
1000 Sofia, Bulgaria

ABSTRACT
Some morphological traits of Antarctic animals could be considered in the context of
a trend to more direct relation between environmental conditions and possible adaptive
mechanisms of animals organism. Penguins are excellent object for biomonitoring. Here
a preliminarily report is presented regarding a new trait, a spot-like coloration (yellow
spot) of the bill, observed on the upper mandible of Gentoo penguin (subspecies
Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii). The spot varied in size and colour. It was recorded among
chicks over two months old and adult birds (normal and molting). The trait had no
significant relationship to the animal' s sex. Among all inspected females 31% and among
all inspected males 27% exhibited beak spot. Three breeding colonies were investigated
at three different geographical locations at the Antarctic Peninsula Livingston Island,
South Shetlands (6238 S), Wiencke Island (64o52 S), and Petermann Island (6510 S).
Yellow spot was found with different frequencies at these three locations: 20%, 36%, and
30%, respectively. All spotted penguins from the three colonies were 32% when

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compared to all non-spotted. The possible reasons for the spot-like coloration are
discussed. The trait could be a phenotypic characteristic. It could play some role in the
mate choice. A possible connection to carotenoid pigments content does not be
eliminated in the context of Gentoo diet. A probable cause for the beak spot appearance
seems to be the increasing of ozone depletion above Antarctica. The ultraviolet radiation
enhances free radical production. Other studies reported an increase of the flux of
transsulfuration pathway as a defense reaction, resulting in elevated level of cysteine.
When cysteine concentration is raised, an attaching of cysteine to melanin synthesis
pathway occurs and this results in formation of reddish pigments.

INTRODUCTION
Antarctica environment is closely related to the global change of our planet and hence it
is a topic of increasing importance. Climatic features, atmospheric regime, and temperature
and water balance depend on the state of Antarctic continent. The investigation whether
Antarctica is influenced by anthropogenic pollution is of great interest. In this context the
biomonitoring could provide valuable data. Results reported by Metcheva et al. (2006)
suggest that due to annually molting penguin feathers are an excellent monitoring tool of
Antarctica environmental state, being precise indicator for detection of metal levels. This
allows assess possible contamination trends.
During the morphological investigations on Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua
ellsworthii) a spot-like coloration (yellow spot) was observed at the base of the upper
mandible of some individuals. It varied from clear yellow-orange to reddish. Colour patterns
of terrestrial birds have been well studied, but there is little research on seabird coloration
(Jones and Hunter 1993; Jouventin et al. 2005).
Among the six genera belonging to family Spheniscidae, the genus Pygoscelis is the most
widely distributed (Del Hoyo et al. 1992). Three species belong to Pygoscelis: Chinstrap (P.
antarctica), Gentoo (P. papua) and Adelie (P. adeliae). Gentoo penguins breed on
subantarctic islands and on the Antarctic Peninsula (Stonehouse 1970). There are two
subspecies of Gentoo P. p. papua, J. R. Forster, 1781 and P. p. ellsworthii, Murphy, 1947.
The subspecies P. p. papua is distributed in sub Antarctic up to 60 S; P. p. ellsworthii
inhabits the Antarctic from 60 S up to 65 S (Del Hoyo et al. 1992). The subspecies P. p.
ellsworthii is of smaller size and bill proportion compared to P. p. papua (Martinez 1992).
Gentoo penguin populations inhabiting the Antarctic Peninsula have been studied with
respect to foraging behavior (Trivelpiece et al. 1986), morphometry (Stonehouse 1970), UV
reflectance (Jouventin et al. 2005) etc. However, this trait (yellow spot) observed has not
been described in the literature before.
Some authors (Stevenson and Anderson 1994; Siefferson and Hill 2005) that study
different particular colorations in birds tend to explain the function of these phenomena in
terms of health, mate choice behavior or intraspecific signaling. Saks et al. (2003) have
established that brighter yellow breast feathers in male greenfinches signals
immunocompetence and health status. Thus, females prefer more ornamental males, able to
provide parasite resistance genes for the offspring. Some of the colour patches are at the same
time also ultraviolet markings. Jouventin et al. (2005) have reported UV beak spots in King
penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) and Emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri). They have

A New Trait of Gentoo Penguin: Possible Relation to Antartica

273

found UV peaks of reflectance, overlapping with spots of colour on both sides of the lower
mandible, which have appeared orange (with variations among individuals from yellow to
red). The authors suggested that UV beak spot could be an indicator of sexual maturity having
a possible role in pairing. UV reflective patches are of concern in the context of UV vision in
birds, which may be used also for foraging (Stari et al. 2002) and hunting (Koivula et al.
1997; Koivula et al. 1999).
Other interesting problems are whether such kind of markings (colour only or colour and
UV reflectivity) might appear as consequence of environmental changes or it depends on the
diet, biochemical disturbances and parasite infection. Most probably a complex reason might
take place. Similar traits could also be used for comparative population studies.
In the present study the distribution of spotted P. p. ellsworthii in three Antarctic
locations Livingston Island, South Shetlands (6238 S), Wiencke Island (64o52 S), and
Petermann Island (6510 S) is reported and probable reasons for the beak spot appearance are
discussed. Particularly, a possible reason related to the specific Antarctic environment is
outlined.

MATERIALS AND METHODS


Populations Studied
Field measurements were carried out on adult, nonmoulting and molting Gentoo penguins
(P. p. ellsworthii), inhabiting Livingston Island (6238 S, 6024 W, South Shetland Islands),
Wiencke Island (64o52 S, 6330 W, Palmer Archipelago), and Petermann Island (6510 S,
6410 W). The birds were tested during the Antarctic summer seasons, from January to
March, at Livingston Island in years 2002 2005; at Petermann Island in 2002-2003, and at
Wiencke Island in 2003-2004. At Livingston Island the studied colony varied from 84 to 110
couples. At Petermann and Wiencke Islands the colonies were larger, about 1000 nests per
island. Additionally, at Livingston Island twelve marked couples of P. p. ellsworthii as well
as the offspring in the crche were observed in December 2005 - January 2006.
The penguins were captured using a hand net. After inspection the morphological traits
were measured according to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living
Resources Ecological Monitoring Programme (CCAMLR EMP) recommendations
(CCAMLR 2004).
All the penguins were marked with glass-encapsulated TROVAN identification
electronic transponders. These transponders, implanted subcutaneously, have demonstrated to
be a reliable means to identify individual penguins. The TROVAN system enables long
lasting marking, automatic detection of birds and quick identification (Clarke an Kerry 1998).
The penguins were checked for the appearance of spot on the beak when they were marked.

Blood Samples for DNA Analysis


Blood sampling for sex identification and DNA analyses were performed by two different
ways according to the CCAMLR EMP Standard Methods Recommendations. Approximately

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Roumiana Metcheva, Vladimir Bezrukov, Svetla E. Teodorova et al.

1 ml of blood was drawn from the cubital vein with a syringe and placed into tubes with
K3EDTA or into heparinzed tubes. DNA was extracted using a standard phenol-chloroform
method as described by Sambrook et al. (1989). Sex determination was performed by PCR as
described by Itoh et al. (2001).

Discriminant Analysis
Sex determination of Gentoo from the Petermann Island was carried out with
discriminant analysis, as described EMP Standard methods, Hobart (CCAMLR 2004) with
little modification. The equation was Z = 0.922*L + 3.885*H were L and H are the length and
high of the bill, respectively. The discriminate value was D = 103.302 instead of the
described 112.608, because the localization of the minimum at the male-female distribution of
D was at the 103.302 point. Data were verified with the values of body mass differences (only
for registered nesting couples) males were usually heavier than females. The results were
confirmed with PCR assay according Savov et al. (2004).

Statistical Treatment
The percentages of spotted individuals from Livingston Island, Wiencke Island, and
Petermann Island were compared and statistically analyzed for their significance.
Differences in the trait distribution between males and females were tested using the 2criterion for table 2 x 2. Trait distribution in the penguins at different locations was tested
with exact Fishers test (for two-tailed probability of the II type error) (Sokal and Rohlf 1995;
Dubrova 2000).

RESULTS
Gentoo penguins from Antarctic Peninsula (Figure 1) were tested for presence/absence of
beak spot (Figures 2 and 3) as follows: 157 individuals at Livingston Island (or about 81% of
the breeding colony), 114 at Wiencke Island (11% of the colony), and 201 at Petermann
Island (20% of the colony). The spot is located on the upper mandible of the bird (Figure 2).
It begins at the flashy core and extends onto the hardened part of the beak. In different
individuals the spot size ranges from very small (1 2 mm) to quite large (20 25 mm). The
largest spots spread over almost all the upper surface of the bill. We named the observed new
trait yellow spot because of its typical colour. However, the colour of the spot varied from
yellowish to red with yellow, orange, and pink intermediate forms in different birds. The
scheme in Figure 4 gives a picture regarding size and colour variations of the spot.
Other visible peculiarities in body or feather coloration of beak-spotted Gentoo penguins
were not recorded.
The trait was observed year-round, not only during molt. Over the time of exploration the
spots did not change their appearance.

A New Trait of Gentoo Penguin: Possible Relation to Antartica

275

The yellow spot was observed also in adults and chicks inspected. Among adult birds
the frequency of this trait was approximately two times higher than among chicks.
To prove preliminarily a possible heritable basis and to estimate the age-related process
of spot appearance, commencing with the hatching, we observed additionally 3 pairs with
spots (both of parents), 2 pairs without spots and 7 mixed pairs (with spot in only one of the
parents) at Livingston Island in December 2005 January 2006. From the beginning of
hatching to about 3 weeks of age no beak spot was found in the offspring (Figure 5).

Figure 1. Gentoo penguin distribution map: the white dots indicate the breeding areas of the subspecies
Pygoscelis papua papua and the black dots the breeding areas of the subspecies Pygoscelis papua
ellsworthii. 1 Livingston island; 2 Wienke island; 3 Petermann island.

Figure 2. Adult Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii) with spot on the upper mandible.

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Roumiana Metcheva, Vladimir Bezrukov, Svetla E. Teodorova et al.

Figure 3. Adult Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii) without spot on the upper mandible.

Figure 4. A scheme of the Yellow spot, observed on the upper mandible of Gentoo penguins
(Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii): place of the spot on the mandible and spot size variations.

Figure 5. One-month Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii) without spot on the upper
mandible.

A New Trait of Gentoo Penguin: Possible Relation to Antartica

277

Similar data were obtained at the other locations (Petermann and Wiencke Islands),
where recently hatched chicks with beak spot were not found. Spots were observed, however,
in two-month chicks (Livingston colony), when they have formed crche (Figure 6). Among
75 juveniles, 3 two-month chicks (4%) exhibited a small spot in the base of the upper
mandible.

Figure 6. Two-month Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii) with an about 2 mm Yellow
spot on the base of the upper mandible.

The spot distribution among males and females is presented in Table 1. The DNA
analysis was carried out on 93 individuals in the Livingston colony and on 185 individuals in
Petermann colony. The analyses revealed that at Livingston Island 37 of the samples were
females and the rest 56 were males. Respectively, at Petermann Island 94 penguins were
females and 91 males. Among all inspected females 31% exhibited beak spot and among all
inspected males colour spot on the beak was observed in 27% of individuals. There was no
statistically significant difference in the frequency of spot appearance in both sexes (Table 1).
The distribution of the trait in the three Gentoo colonies (at Livingston, Wiencke, and
Petermann islands) for the penguins investigated during 2002 2005 (without those observed
in the summer season 2005/2006) is presented in Table 2.
All inspected birds were divided into two categories with spot and without spot.
The average frequency of all spotted individuals is 31.7%. The differences in the percentage
of spotted individuals among all the three colonies are statistically significant. The highest
frequency of the trait was found in the colony of Wiencke Island followed by the colonies of
Petermann and Livingston (Table 2).

Roumiana Metcheva, Vladimir Bezrukov, Svetla E. Teodorova et al.

278

Table 1. Distribution of the yellow spot between male and female individuals of
Pygoscelis papua ellsworthi

Location

Livingston
Island
Petermann
Island

All groups

n (all
inspected)

Sex

With beak spot

Without beak spot

Frequency in %

Male

56

15

27

41

Frequency
in %
73

Female
Total
Male

37
93
91

9
24
25

24
26
27

28
69
66

76
74
73

0,069

0.98

Female
Total
Male
Female
Total

94
185
147
131
278

31
56
40
40
80

33
30
27
31
29

63
129
107
91
198

67
70
73
69
71

0,66

0.78

0,37

0.93

Table 2. Distribution of the yellow spot in the three colonies of Pygoscelis papua
ellsworthi, inhabiting different Antarctic geographical areas. Frequencies (%) of spotted
individuals and Fishers test data are given

Population

Livingston
Island
Wiencke Island
Petermann
Island
All

Location

6238 S
6024 W
64o52 S
6330 W
6510 S
6410 W

Total

%
Spotted

n
With
beak spot

Without
beak spot

157

31

126

19.7

114

58

56

50.9

201

61

140

30.3

472

150

322

31.8

Statistical significance
(exact Fishers test)
Comparison
Twobetween
Tailed
populations
probability
Livingston 0.0014
Peterman
Peterman 0.0004
Wiencke
Livingston 0.00012
Wiencke

DISCUSSION
On the basis of the result that the distribution of the revealed beak spot in males and
females P. p. ellsworthii does not differ significantly (Table 1) one could safely state that the
yellow spot is not related to the sex of Gentoo penguin.
The yellow spot is a characterization both of non-molting and molting penguins.
This trait may be a polymorphic characteristic. In such case it will be of interest to study
its genetic architecture. The problem of Gentoo population analysis is important today
because Gentoo is one of the indicator species of Antarctic ecosystem (Zhu et al. 2005) and a
comparison of populations by trait frequencies could be useful for population studies and
monitoring programs of Gentoo penguin.

A New Trait of Gentoo Penguin: Possible Relation to Antartica

279

At the present stage of the study we have not yet collected data supporting an assumption
regarding a heritable basis of the trait. The fact that no spot was recorded in Gentoo chicks
bellow two months of age suggests a possible correlation between the spot appearance and
age, i. e. the spot appears in growing up offspring to play some role related to mature birds.
Such an assumption is reasonable taking into account that in the crche only 4% of the twomonth chicks exhibited a small spot and that in adult birds the frequency of the spot was
about five times higher than in juveniles.
Much attention has been paid to the significance of colour and UV phenomena in avian
intrasexual competition or intrasexual selection. Jouventin et al. (2005) have established that
recently paired King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) had shown higher UV reflectance
than courting ones. So, these authors consider the UV ornaments as a factor, which plays a
role in pairing of breeding males and females and could serve as an indicator of sexual
maturity. Also Mougeot and Arroyo (2006) have noted that UV signals play key roles in
social and sexual signaling in birds. European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) (Benett et al.
1997), Blue tits (Parus caeruleus) (Anderson et al. 1998; Hunt et al. 1998), and Bluethroats
(Luscinia s. svecica) (Anderson and Amundsen 1997) use UV-reflecting plumage cues in
mate choice. On the other hand, there are studies indicating that UV vision in birds plays an
essential role in their foraging and hunting behaviour. So black grouses prefer UV-reflecting
berries (Stari and al. 2002), kestrels are attracted to the vole urine and faces marks that
reflect UV light (Viitala et al 1995; Koivula et al. 1999; Zampiga et al. 2006). The hunting
success of nocturnal owls is best during clear nights due to the visibility of the scent markings
in UV light (Koivula et al. 1997).
Endoparasitism is viewing as a cause for the coloration variety (McGraw and Hill, 2000).
It was found (Saks et al. 2003) that coccidian infection reduces the expression of plumage
coloration in greenfinches (Carduelis chloris) by creating a deficiency of carotenoids
available for deposition in ornamental feathers. Golemanski (2002) first described intestinal
coccidiosis in P. papua (Livingston Island).
One could suppose some relationship between spot and carotenoid pigments. Red, orange
and yellow coloration is usually related to these pigments. Saks et al. (2003) have established
that the plumage coloration in male greenfinches, signalizing their immunocompetence and
health status, is carotenoid-based. The combination of carotenoid pigments with proteins
generates many colors, from the brilliant yellow to red, in crustaceans, fish, and birds. The
general distribution and metabolic pathways of carotenoids have been investigated in details
(Katayama et al. 1971; Goodwin 1984; Davis 1985; Matsuno and Hirao 1989). We have not
analyzed biochemically Gentoo beak but it seems reasonable to suppose at least partial
carotenoid contribution in beak coloration because of Gentoo diet. It consists of about 50
80% crustaceans, mainly krill, which are a rich source of carotenoids (Berrow at all. 1999).
However, there are reports regarding the potential for melanins to produce yellow colors in
birds plumage (McGraw et al. 2004). These authors have not detected carotenoid pigments
in feathers of five avian species, including King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) and
Macaroni Penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus). More over McGraw et al. (2004) suggested that
the yellow appearance of penguin and domestic chick feathers might be attributed to a new
form of plumage pigment, never before described from bird feathers.
A probable reason for appearance of the beak spot may be related to some aspects of the
changes in Antarctic environment and especially to the increased ozone depletion above
Antarctica. As known ozone layer protects the earth surface from the ultraviolet radiation.

Roumiana Metcheva, Vladimir Bezrukov, Svetla E. Teodorova et al.

280

Evidence is provided that UV radiation generates H2O2 (Peus et al. 1998). In presence of
H2O2 and under UV rays reactive oxygen species (ROS) are formed. What kind of way might
lead from ozone depletion and ROS to yellow spot?
The pigment melanin causes the black colour. It is an essential component in the bill
structure. Incorporation of melanin granules into the bill keratin increases the hardness of the
bill (Bonser and Witter 1993). Attaching of cysteine to DOPA-quinone after oxidative
cyclization and polymerization results in the formation of reddish pigments (Angelov et al.
1995). DOPA-quinone is the third step of the melanin synthesis pathway beginning from
tyrosine. Such a reaction is possible to occur in case of an increase of the concentration of
cysteine, taking part in desintoxication and antioxidant processes.
The low-molecular-weight thiols cysteine and especially glutathione are important
antioxidants acting in cells. In the biochemical anabolic pathway the cysteine is a precursor of
glutathione. Reduced glutathione (L-gamma-glutamyl-L-cysteinyl-glycine, GSH) is formed in
a two-step enzymatic process including, first, the formation of gamma-glutamylcysteine from
glutamate and cysteine, and second, the formation of GSH from gamma-glutamylcysteine and
glycine (Nikolov 1971; Franco et al. 2007). The production of GSH mainly depends on the
amount of available cysteine (van der Crabben et al. 2008).
The cysteine synthesis is involved in the transsulfuration pathway. The first step of this
pathway, from homocysteine to cystathionine, is catalyzed by cystathionine beta-synthase
(CBS). The enzyme transsulfurase (cystathionase) converts cystathionine to cysteine. Persa et
al. (2004), exploring some biochemical reactions in eye, showed that a transsulfuration
pathway is present in the lens and that oxidative stress of H2O2 could increase the flux of this
pathway activating the CBS enzyme. Thus, a lens under oxidative stress accumulates free and
protein-bound cysteine. They reported also that oxidative stress transiently up-regulates the
gene expression of CBS both in human lens epithelial cells and in pig lens.
It seems reasonable to suppose that transsulfuration pathway exists in the penguins bill
and likely the accumulation of ROS in the cells as a result of the enhanced UV radiation cooperate to an increase of CBS synthesis and CBS activity. The increase of cysteine production
and hence the GSH level may be considered as adequate adaptive reaction to the change of
environmental conditions. On the other hand, the elevated cysteine level plays a role for
involving of cysteine in melanin synthesis pathway via attaching to DOPA-quinine. The
formation of reddish pigments could reflect in beak spot coloration.
The frequency of the spot appearance in the three investigated geographical points did
not unambiguously show a cline in the trait distribution (Table 2). Still the lowest frequency
(19.7%) was found in the colony of the most north point (Livingston Island). The highest
percentage of spotted penguins was found at Wiencke Island, situated between Livingston
and Petermann Islands. Wiencke Island is by 2o14 southly from Livingston Island. The ozone
depletion increases in south direction, to the pole.
Longer studies and targeted investigations are required to determine precisely the most
probable cause (or cause complex) for the appearance of this trait and to clarify its possible
function.
\

A New Trait of Gentoo Penguin: Possible Relation to Antartica

281

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This work was supported by the grant INTAS-20010517 and grant of Ukrainian
Antarctic Center 04DF036-01(H/4-2004) and by grant B- 1615/2006 from the Bulgarian
National Scientific Fund.

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In: Advances in Environmental Research, Volume 13


Editor: Justin A. Daniels

ISSN: 2158-5717
2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 10

ASSESSING POPULATION VIABILITY OF FOCAL


SPECIES TARGETS IN THE WESTERN FOREST
COMPLEX, THAILAND
Yongyut Trisurat1 and Anak Pattanavibool2
1

Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University,


Bangkok 10900, Thailand
2
Wildlife Conservation Society Thailand Program,
Nonthaburi 11120, Thailand

ABSTRACT
The Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM) in Thailand covers approximately 19,000
km2. This protected area complex comprises 11 national parks and 6 wildlife sanctuaries.
During 1999-2004, the Danish Government provided financial support to the Royal
Forest Department to manage this forest complex through the ecosystem management
approach. The WEFCOM Project employed rapid ecological assessment (REA) to
determine the current distribution statuses of wil