Mitigating the risk of cyanobacterial blooms in wastewater ponds

2020-2023

Three-year ARC LP to understand the causes of cyanobacterial blooms in pond-based wastewater treatment plants and the risk they pose. This project will use the latest -omic techniques to examine how the microbial communities within these systems interact with each other and their surrounding environment to form blooms and produce toxins and other harmful metabolites.

Cyanobacterial blooms in wastewater treatment plants impact on effluent quality and the utility of recycled water, posing a significant risk to the economy, the environment and public health. By providing a better understanding of the molecular ecology of cyanobacteria in wastewater treatment plants, this project is expected to inform quantitative risk assessments and strategies for the improved management of toxic blooms in these systems, enabling responsive threat reduction options by water utilities.

Focused Research Questions:

1. What is the diversity and functional potential of toxic cyanobacteria and other key microbes in waste-stabilisation ponds, sediments and recycled water products?
2. What are the metabolic activities of these microbes?
3. How do these microbes interact on an ecological level?
4. Which biotic/abiotic factors can be used to develop an integrated framework for cyanobacterial bloom prediction, monitoring and risk assessment?
5. How can site-specific operating conditions be modified to reduce risk?

Key Outcomes:

Review of gene cluster expression and biochemical characterisation of cyanotoxin biosynthesis pathways (Cullen et al, 2018)
Discovery that mcy gene cluster that codes for microcystin production by Microcystis aeruginosa is conserved across different climates (Pearson, Crosbie & Neilan, 2019)

Researchers:

Brett Neilan
Aaron Jex
Anas Ghadouani
Nick Crosbie

Partners:

University of Newcastle | University of Melbourne | University of Western Australia | Melbourne Water

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