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The Microbes in Grey Water

As buildings move forward in an attempt to become more “green,” it is important to continue to assess how the microbiology changes with these new systems. A recent study from Keely et al used high-throughput pyrosequencing to look at what microbes live in the different points in grey water systems. The sampling efforts were split into three sources of water: the shower and sink handwash, the equalization tank that comes prior to water treatment, and the laundry.

They found that almost half the sequences from laundry water were skin-associated, which doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. Additionally, the shower and sink handwash and equalization tank samples contained genera that are commonly found in wastewater infrastructure. The equalization tank also had many anaerobically adapted genera. Samples were taken over several months and showed a taxonomic distinction between the laundry water and the rest of the samples. Interestingly, the exception was that sink handwash samples from December were like a hybrid between the laundry and other sink handwash samples.

Fig. 5 from Keely et al, 2015. Heatmap of the 50 most abundant bacterial genera, darker green representing more abundance of the corresponding genera. LA is laundry, SH is sink handwash (the stars are the Dec. samples of SH), BC are building controls, PW is potable water, and ET is the equalization tank.
Fig. 5 from Keely et al, 2015. Heatmap of the 50 most abundant bacterial genera, darker green representing more abundance of the corresponding genera. LA is laundry, SH is sink handwash (the stars are the Dec. samples of SH), BC are building controls, PW is potable water, and ET is the equalization tank.

Here on microBEnet, we often see articles about microbes in water, but seldom specifically about grey water, so this is especially cool to see. Its important to take into account how green technology and innovation in buildings affects microbiology. Otherwise, we might be creating new problems by solving the old ones.

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Alex Alexiev

Alex Alexiev is a recent UC Davis graduate with a BS in microbiology working in Jonathan Eisen’s lab on aquariums as part of the microbiology of the built environment.

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