Microbes exist in every water system in the world. They are perfectly adapted to their environmental conditions, making the disinfection process a difficult task. As microbes grow, they attach themselves to wetted surfaces in a water system. They protect themselves from disinfecting agents by forming biofilms. A biofilm contains a group of bacteria enveloped within a polymeric slime that ensures adhesion to the surface. As a result, they are several hundred times more resistant to the action of various disinfectants and antibiotics than the same microorganisms grown in suspension.
Biofilms have a complex architecture, are stabilized by its attached mechanisms and have the ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions, therefore they are very difficult to remove.
When bacteria are exposed to a stressful environment, the formation of a biofilm begins. The first inhabitants of the film create weak bonds with the surface, which are known as van der Waals forces. Over time, these bacteria form stronger bonds with the surface using a process known as cell adhesion. While a biofilm is under construction, bacteria can communicate with each other through a process called quorum sensing. This phenomenon allows a bacterium to sense how many other bacteria are nearby. Nearby bacteria engaged in the process emit chemicals to make other bacteria aware of their presence. If a large quantity is sensed by a bacterium, that bacterium is more likely to become part of a forming biofilm. This phenomenon can be used for communication within a single species of bacteria, as well as across multiple species. This leads to a biofilm’s cells becoming specialized to perform different roles, similar to the cells within a multicellular organism, enhancing the survival of the entire group under adverse conditions such as increasing disinfectant levels.
These resistant groups of microorganisms are a destructive source of contamination in municipal, cooling, process, and agricultural waters. In commercial operations, contaminated water can lead to the alteration of the produced product, food poisoning outbreaks or other negative effects on the customers. Pathogens, which can cause human disease, survive and thrive within a biofilm.
Biofilms can form in virtually any type of wet location. However, they cause a particularly serious problem when they grow inside the equipment used to process and store water intended for human consumption and use. Biofilms develop on surfaces throughout the water distribution system, including the interior of the filtration system, pipes and storage tanks. When treated water passes through the system, microorganisms living in the biofilms can contaminate this water. If humans come in contact with the contaminated water, either through drinking or inhalation, they can contract infections, sicknesses or even death.
The entire product line from Blue Earth Products is designed to prevent, treat and remediate water systems suffering from the effects of biofilm.