Scientists at the Urban Utilities water management plant in Queensland, Australia have grown a superbug from scratch. Its superpower? A remarkably large appetite for sewage.
The bacteria, called anammox bugs, were devised as a response to the rapidly growing population. Plant Manager Peter Donaghy says, “growing cities mean more wastewater, that means more nutrients and ammonia that we need to remove. Anammox bacteria are so efficient at doing that, that they’ve actually created ten percent extra capacity here at Luggage Point.”
The anammox bugs are grown on small plastic discs which are moved into sewage tanks. The bacteria thrive off the nitrogen and ammonium found in sewage, which provides a natural and more eco-friendly solution for wastewater treatment. Traditional wastewater uses significant amounts of chemicals and energy, so a natural and energy-efficient alternative is a welcome and necessary change. As a bonus, the superbugs save the Urban Utilities plant half a million dollars (AUD) per year.
For now, Urban Utilities has the only anammox farm in Australia, but they hope that there will soon be enough for the rest of the country to utilize.