The microbiological assessment of a biofiltration system in KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) treating borehole water containing Mn (II) and Fe (II).
In the following study, the potential role that microorganisms play in the removal of Mn (II) and Fe (II) was assessed using biofilter sand and water samples collected from a biofiltration system (operated by Umgeni Water in KwaZulu-Natal, Nottingham Road, at the Nottingham combined school, South Africa) treating borehole water containing manganese and iron. Initially the presence of Mn (II) and Fe (II) oxidizing bacteria was demonstrated in the biofiltration system. Thereafter, the contribution of individual microorganisms to the overall removal of manganese and iron was assessed in the laboratory by determining the difference in metal oxidation in the presence and absence of active bacteria at neutral pH, simulating conditions in the biofilter. Controls were run to verify the elimination via physiochemical reactions occurring within the biofiltration system. Finally a diversity snapshot of the bacteria present within the biofilter matrix was established via analysis of a clone library. Viable bacterial counts for the biofiltration system were established using MSVP (minimal salts vitamins pyruvate) medium - plus added manganese sulfate or iron sulfate targeting Mn (II) and Fe (II) oxidizing bacteria - and R2A for heterotrophic bacteria. In the first experimental chapter, batch tests using MSVP were employed to determine manganese oxidation, by measuring the pH and ORP (oxidation reduction potential) in experimental flasks and controls over time. There was a clear drop in pH and a concomitant increase in ORP when an isolated manganese oxidizing strain (designated LB1) was grown in MSVP plus added manganese sulfate, indicating manganese oxidation. Based on physiological characteristics established by the VITEK-2 system as well as by 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis and MALDI-TOF (Matrix assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry) mass spectrometry of cell extracts, the isolate was identified as a member of the genus Acinetobacter. EDX (energy dispersive X-ray analysis) analysis of crystals formed in batch culture tests, containing MSVP plus either added manganese or iron sulfate, confirmed the ability of the isolate to oxidize both Mn (II) and Fe (II). The leucoberbelin blue colorimetric assay and batch tests using MSVP both demonstrated that in the presence of the isolated strain, Acinetobacter sp. LB1, the rate of Mn (II) oxidation at neutral pH was enhanced as compared to abiotic controls. In the second experimental chapter the difference in Fe (II) oxidation between biological and abiological systems at neutral pH was determined using batch tests run with Acinetobacter sp. LB1 and Fe (II) in saline. In addition, the rate of Fe (II) oxidation was also determined at acidic pH and at alkaline pH in experimental and control flasks. To determine Fe (II) removal under conditions simulating those in the biofiltration system, batch tests were set up using borehole water freshly collected from the biofiltration system. In order to verify the contribution of native microorganisms in the borehole water to Fe (II) oxidation, these flasks were spiked with bacterial strains isolated from the biofiltration system - Acinetobacter sp. LB1 and Burkholderia sp. strain LB2 - and two known iron oxidizing strains Leptothrix mobilis (DSM 10617) and Sphaerotilus natans (DSM 565) were used to determine the contribution of reference iron oxidizers to Fe (II) oxidation. A separate set of the same flasks with the addition of filter sand was used to qualitatively demonstrate iron oxidation as it would occur within the biofiltration system. The ferrozine assay was employed to quantify the amount of Fe (II) in batch tests employing saline medium and in batch tests employing borehole water. EDX analysis was employed to confirm the presence of Fe (II) in oxidation products in the batch test flask with filter sand spiked with Acinetobacter sp. LB1. In the presence of Acinetobacter sp. LB1 at neutral pH in saline medium, the rate of Fe (II) oxidation was very similar to that in the abiological controls thus demonstrating that the presence of metabolically active microorganisms does not per se enhance the oxidation of Fe (II) like in the case of Mn (II) at neutral pH. Surprisingly, in the heat inactivated control, apparently the highest amount of Fe (II) was oxidized. As expected, at acidic pH very little oxidation of Fe (II) took place and at alkaline pH almost all Fe (II) in the flasks was removed and small amounts oxidized as determined by the amount of Fe (III) produced. Batch tests using borehole water proved that native microorganisms within the biofiltration system were more efficient in the oxidative removal of Fe (II) from the system, in comparison to the reference iron oxidizing strains. In the final experimental chapter, the presence of biofilms with actively metabolizing cells was examined on a pooled sample of biofilter matrix from the manganese and iron filter using CLSM (confocal laser scanning microscopy) image analysis. DNA was extracted from the biofilm material associated with biofilter matrix to establish a diversity snapshot of the bacteria present within the biofilter matrix. ARDRA (amplified “rDNA” restriction analysis) analysis of the clone library revealed the presence of 15 unique OTU’s (operational taxonomic unit) based upon restriction patterns of amplified 16S rRNA genes of a total of 100 randomly selected clones. The majority of the clones were closely related to the genera Nitrospira and Lactococcus. Overall, 42% of the clones were assigned to the phylum Proteobacteria, 13% to the phylum Actinobacteria, 24% to the phylum Firmicutes and 21% to the phylum Nitrospirae. Overall, the results demonstrate that bacteria present within an established biofiltration system at neutral pH can contribute to the oxidative removal of Mn (II) and, apparently only to a smaller degree, to that of Fe (II) present in borehole water and that species within the proteobacterial genus Acinetobacter are potentially involved in the geochemical cycling of these two metals. Keywords: Biofiltration, iron and manganese oxidation, Acinetobacter sp. LB1, batch tests, 16S rRNA, MALDI-TOF MS analysis, Mn (II) and Fe (II) colorimetric assays, EDX analysis, biofilm formation, CLSM image analysis, 16S rRNA clone library Abbreviations: MSVP (minimal salts vitamins pyruvate), ORP (oxidation reduction potential), EDX (energy dispersive X-ray analysis), MALDI-TOF MS (Matrix assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry), rRNA (ribosomal RNA), ARDRA (amplified “rDNA” restriction analysis), CLSM (confocal laser scanning microscopy), OTU (operational taxonomic unit)