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Commercial & Domestic Natural Water Solutions

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What are Bacteria

Bacteria are single-celled organisms that do not have well-defined organelles such as a nucleus. The cells are typically enclosed in a rigid cell wall and a plasma membrane. Bacteria contain all of the genetic material necessary to reproduce, and they reproduce by simple cellular division. Bacteria show a wide range of nutrient requirements and energy-related metabolism. Some bacteria require only minerals and a carbon source such as sugar for growth, while others require more complex growth media. Bacteria play an extremely important role in recycling nutrients in the environment. Bacteria break down organic matter into simple compounds like carbon dioxide and water, and they cycle important nutrients such as nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus. Bacteria can migrate to areas that are rich in specific nutrients that they require for growth. Bacteria can also attach themselves to surfaces and form communities known as biofilms.


What are Enzymes

An enzyme is a protein that acts as a catalyst. The enzyme is responsible for accelerating the rate of a reaction in which various substrates are converted to products through the formation of an enzyme-substrate complex. In general, each type of enzyme catalyzes only one type of reaction and will operate on only one type of substrate. This is often referred to as a "lock and key" mechanism. As a consequence, enzymes are highly specific and are able to discriminate between slightly different substrate molecules. In addition, enzymes exhibit optimal catalytic activity over a narrow range of temperature, ionic strength and ph.


Do enzymes break down any molecule or just specific ones and how specific do they get?

The specificity of an enzyme for its substrate is generally a function of the enzyme's "active site" or binding site. The structure of the protein determines the range of substrates or "keys" that can fit into the lock. Most enzymes are exquisitely specific. That is, they react only with one specific substrate. Some enzymes, however, have a more flexible active site that can accommodate molecules that are closely related to the target substrate. In this case, there is typically a preferred substrate with which the enzyme reacts at a higher rate than with related compounds.


Can Enzymes adapt to different conditions and to different grease, oils and food?

Enzymes are not living things. They have no ability to adapt to changing conditions or substrate sources. Their level of activity is a function of these conditions. If they are not in optimal conditions, their activity decreases or stops.


How do bacteria break down any molecule or just specific and how specific do they get?

Bacteria have the capability of producing many different types of enzymes. They are living organisms that respond to their environment. In general, bacteria are capable of producing enzymes that degrade a wide variety of organic materials such as fats, oils, cellulose, xylan, proteins, and starches. It is important to note that all of these materials are polymers that must be reacted with more than one type of enzyme in order to be efficiently degraded to their basic building blocks. Nature provides a specific "team" of enzymes to attack each type of polymer. For example, there are three different classes of enzymes (endocellulases, exocellulases, cellobiohydrolases) that are required to degrade a cellulose polymer into basic glucose units. All three types of enzymes are referred to as cellulases, but each class attacks a specific structure or substructure of the polymer. Acting individually, none of the cellulases is capable of efficiently degrading the polymer. Bacteria can produce the complete "team" of enzymes that are necessary to degrade and consume the organic materials present in their environment at any given time. Moreover, bacteria can produce multiple "teams" at the same time.


Can bacterium adapt to different conditions and to different grease, oils and food?

Bacteria can adapt to a range of conditions and food supplies. They can change the type of enzymes that they produce if the food source changes. They can protect themselves from changes in environmental conditions by forming colonies, biofilms, or spores. Importantly, bacteria live in "communities" made up of different species. Each species fills a biological niche, and the population of each species grows or declines in response to the environment. For example, a community may contain certain species that efficiently degrade grease and other species that thrive on cellulose.


How long do Enzymes work compared with Bacteria?

All enzymes have a limited half-life (minutes to days, depending on conditions). They are proteins that are biodegradable and are subject to damage by other enzymes (proteases), chemicals, and extremes of pH and temperature. An important difference between enzyme-based products and bacterial products is that the enzymes can't repair themselves or reproduce. Living bacteria, however, produce fresh enzymes on a continuous basis and can bounce back following mild environmental insults.


How quickly do high enzyme producing bacteria (Protease, lipase and Amylase produce enzymes) and in what quantities?

Production of enzymes begins as soon as the bacteria begin to grow on TWC. The cells must obtain nutrients from TWC and their surroundings, so they secrete enzymes to degrade the available food. The quantities of enzymes produced vary depending on the bacterial species and the culture conditions (e.g., nutrients, temperature, and pH) and growth rate. Hydrolytic enzymes such as proteases, amylases, and cellulases, etc. are produced in the range of milligrams per litre to grams per litre.

​Are these quantities enough to start to compare to straight enzyme products?

Since we don't have any information on the enzyme content of current "straight enzyme" products, it is difficult to answer this question. It is also a function of dosing of the product (i.e., how much, how often). In general, one can assume that the customer could have more control over initial enzyme concentration by adding a prepared enzyme product. However, bacterial cultures can produce competitive amounts of the enzyme after a short colonization period. Bacteria can grow very quickly, doubling their populations in as little as 20-40 minutes. In some applications, it is common to "boost" bacterial colonization by adding a small amount of prepared enzyme to begin degrading the available food. This is often done in composting processes to jump-start the bacterial/fungal growth.


If you use just Enzymes, how many different enzymes would you need to use to effectively eliminate grease, oils and food in a waste stream?

Again, somewhat difficult to answer. This depends on what you mean by "eliminate". Significant degradation would require, at a minimum, several of each of the hydrolytic enzymes: proteases, cellulases, xylanases, amylases, lipases, pectinases, and esterases. Ideally, you would also need oxidative enzymes to degrade recalcitrant materials. Oxidative enzymes are expensive and impractical to manufacture and they require complex co-factors. This type of enzyme is needed to degrade fatty acids, for example.


If grease and oil are broken down will they regroup in the pipe or lift station again and reform to clog pipes and wet wells?

This depends upon how far the grease and oil are broken down. Fats are mainly composed of molecules called triglycerides. Triglycerides contain 3 long-chain fatty acids linked to a 3-carbon backbone (glycerol). The first step in the degradation of triglycerides is the cleavage of the 3 bonds that link the 3 fatty acids to the glycerol backbone. Lipases and esterases are the enzymes that catalyze this first step. While the reverse reaction is possible, it is energetically unfavorable, and the bonds will not re-form (except under special circumstances). Generally, lipases will cleave one bond at a time to generate free fatty acids and mono- and di-glycerides. The free fatty acids can combine with calcium ions to form insoluble salts. These salts could cause clogs. However, bacteria, unlike straight enzyme products, have the ability to further degrade and utilize the free fatty acids as APT energy.


What is APT energy:

Adenosine Triphosphate, or APT for short, is the energy currency of life or a molecule that fuels life. It is where all cells get the energy needed to perform their tasks.


What does happen to food particles and cellulose in the trap?

They are degraded over time if bacteria or appropriate enzymes are present. The more complex the "food", the more time and enzyme it will take to break it down.


Will oil breaks down when you have just a few strains of grease enzymes?

The wider the variety of enzymes, the more effective and efficient the degradation. Lipases, for example, vary in the range of fatty acid chain length that they can accept as a substrate when attacking triglycerides. Some prefer triglycerides with short-chain fatty acid substituents, others prefer long chain fatty acids. One or two lipases in a product will not be effective for all triglycerides.


If you have cooking oil in the water, will it encapsulate the enzymes or bacteria?

Most enzymes and bacteria are hydrophilic, or water-loving. They naturally repel oil but can exist at an oil/water interface. Under certain conditions when the oil concentration is much greater than the water concentration, an emulsion can form in which water drops containing enzymes/bacteria are dispersed throughout the oil.


Do aerobic or facultative anaerobic bacteria contribute to odours or eliminate them?

Aerobic and facultative anaerobic bacteria do not generate the offensive compounds (e.g., hydrogen sulfide) that cause odors. A good bacterium population completing the organic decomposition process depresses odors. When this decomposition process is broken and misses a step in the process unwanted bacterial groups (eg cyanobacteria) populate in large numbers creating odors.

The Science of TWC 

commonly asked questions


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