What is Bioaugmentation?

Bioaugmentation is the practice of adding actively growing, specialized microbial strains to a microbial community to enhance the ability of the microbial community to respond to process fluctuations or to degrade certain compounds, resulting in improved treatment. By changing the microbial community to include specific microbes, the characteristics of the microbial community can be improved. 

Why is bioaugmentation used in wastewater treatment systems?
Because microorganisms are the heart of any biological wastewater system, it makes sense that by enhancing the microbial community, the overall wastewater system can operate more efficiently. The purpose of bioaugmentation is to supplement the existing microbial community in order to improve its functionality. Bioaugmentation offers many advantages over traditional technology platforms like chemicals, equipment, or other consumables, and has been used in secondary wastewater treatment systems for decades.

Bioaugmentation enhances the microbial community.
By employing bioaugmentation, the core process of a wastewater facility can be enhanced. While other technologies—chemicals or consumables, for example—can increase effluent quality, such technologies are often expensive and hard to handle, and merely cover up underlying problems within the microbial community. Bioaugmentation offers effective treatment without the capital investment associated with plant expansion and equipment solutions.

Bioaugmentation is cost-effective.

All wastewater treatment systems incur both capital costs (such as when dealing with expansion or replacement) and operating costs. Employing bioaugmentation technology, to enhance the biomass and ensure the microbial population is operated properly, helps reduce these costs. If a microbial population is not healthy and optimized, operating expenses can be incurred in dealing with the effects. For example, polymers can be used to assist settling, and powder activated carbon or oxidation chemicals can be used to lower COD. Reducing the use of these consumables saves money.

Some examples of costs that can be saved using bioaugmentation include the following:
• Energy costs are conserved if a plant can recover energy from biogas produced during anaerobic treatment.
• Reduced consumables, such as polymers, powdered activated carbon, oxidizers, and others.
• Reducing sludge volume in lagoons saves dredging or dewatering costs and final off-site disposal charges.
• Improved efficiency of the microbial community reduces the need for capital improvements.

Bioaugmentation is easy-to-use. 
Difficulties in the plant operation can stem from a number of causes:
• Changing influent conditions due to changes upstream of the plant.
• Changing operational strategies to meet new discharge limitations.
• Influent variability, like shock loads, that interrupt or hinder the treatment process.

These operational difficulties can result in a number of issues, including added costs or lower quality effluent. Maintaining a healthy biomass using bioaugmentation technology helps relieve treatment plants and operators of unnecessary trouble. For example, preserving a robust biomass leads to less operational changes, improved resistance to environmental and influent changes, and odor control.

Bioaugmentation improves plant efficiency.
Often the operation of a treatment system is not as efficient as it could be. For example, pumps, compressors, or aerators can be inefficient due to age or design. Additionally, due to operational bottlenecks, temporary fixes are often employed, such as temporary pumps, piping, or chemical additions, which result in inefficiency.

Using bioaugmentation, the microbial community can be enhanced for improved resistance to toxic shocks, better removal of problematic compounds, and increased organic removal. Improving plant efficiency helps remedy these common treatment issues.