Drink Up: Natural Water Treatment May Be Safe and Effective

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The authors of a study that appears in the recent issue of the journal Phycologia tested to see if algae could be removed using natural coagulants rather than chemical coagulants. The researchers found that TANFLOC, which utilizes materials that are organic and sustainable, is more effective.

Vol. 55 Issue 6 (2016)

The authors introduce a simple technology for the removal of algae from water samples that may be a major boon in providing clean water in the Global South.

Phycologia – Algae continue to negatively impact water affected by runoff and other pollutants. Algae clog filters, requires the use of chlorine and wash water, produces bad smells and tastes, and increase the risk of toxins and bacteria in drinking water. Most countries counteract these side effects through water treatment, but the treatment chemicals can cause their own set of problems for human health. A recent study in the journal Phycologia suggests natural products may be a better alternative.

Researchers from the University of Extremadura in Badajoz, Spain tested to see if algae could be removed using natural coagulants rather than chemical coagulants. The researchers looked at four species of algae that are plentiful in freshwater reservoirs: Chlorella, Microcystis, Oocystis, and Scenedesmus. These types of algae can grow rapidly and easily live in harsh environments. In ideal conditions with good lighting and warm temperatures, algal growth can become an even greater problem and severely affect drinking water quality. Aluminum and other metal salts are often used to remove algae during water treatment, but studies have shown that these chemicals may lead to Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and other serious health problems. As a safer solution, the researchers of this study looked at products made from natural materials such as tree bark and wood.

The results of this research showed that several natural products were more effective at removing algae from surface water than aluminum sulfate, a chemical frequently used for this purpose during water treatment. The wood-based coagulant TANFLOC removed 94% of the algae during lab tests, making it the most effective product tested. Additionally, the larger the dose of the product, the more effective it was in treating the water.

The researchers concluded that TANFLOC is more effective than other plant-based products or the traditional chemical treatment, even when the water contained high concentrations of algae. A larger dose had a greater effect, and the treatment worked best at a water pH below 8. As Phycologia Editor-in-Chief David Garbary noted, “The authors introduce a simple technology for the removal of algae from water samples that may be a major boon in providing clean water in the Global South. It provides an approach that can utilize local materials that are completely organic, and sustainable.” This is the first major study on the extent to which tannin-based coagulants can effectively remove algae from water.

Full text of the article “Microalgal Removal with Natural Coagulants,” Phycologia, Vol. 55, No. 6, 2016, is now available.

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About Phycologia
Phycologia is published bimonthly by the International Phycological Society and serves as a publishing medium for information about any aspect of phycology, basic or applied, including biochemistry, cell biology, developmental biology, ecology, evolution, genetics, molecular biology, physiology, and systematics. Learn more about the Society at http://www.intphycsoc.org/.

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Brooke Winston
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