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No Grey Area to This Issue: Slimes of All Colours Can Cause Costly Problems in Papermaking Processes

Pink, orange, red, brown and grey – paper mill slimes can come in an endless range of colours.  What contributes to these variances in colour? Microorganisms.  Different species – which live within a slime – produce different hues.  Unfortunately, you won’t find gold at the end of that rainbow.  In fact, it’s quite the contrary, as slime can pose costly problems for papermaking facilities.

Microbial populations in papermaking processes are highly diverse.  This is because the environment is highly amenable to microbiological growth and there are numerous potential pathways for contamination.  Consequently, slime characteristics can also vary significantly.  One notable feature is a slime’s colour.  While the microorganisms that create these colourful substances can vary tremendously from one facility to another, the consequences of slime formation are consistently undesirable.

In the papermaking process, slime is produced by microorganisms that have entered the process through raw materials, the water supply, or the air. Slimes develop when microbes attach to equipment surfaces and produce sticky extracellular polymeric substances or EPS.  Once established, the biofilm provides an ideal growth site where other microorganisms and inorganic materials may also become embedded.

Like all slimes in the papermaking process, colourful slimes can cause major issues.  Clumps of slime can clog wires and felts, affecting their ability to efficiently remove water from the sheet.  Slimes can also fall into the paper web, leaving holes after drying processes, which decreases the paper’s strength, and leads to paper breaks and costly downtime.  As previously noted, even relatively short breakdowns can have a significant cost, as production values can exceed thousands of dollars per hour.  In some cases, a slime’s pigment may even cause staining of the final product.

Unfortunately, because of the extensive microbial diversity in papermaking facilities, the type of microorganisms that cause a particular issue at one facility might be entirely different from the types that create similar issues at another location.  Therefore, one-size-fits-all solutions are not realistic; instead, biocide programs must be controlled through comprehensive, site-specific programs that include consistent monitoring with reliable testing tools.  LuminUltra’s 2nd Generation ATP test kits enable paper machine operators to rapidly gain reliable information at any point in the paper process.  Between reliable and accurate monitoring tools, best-in-class knowledge and support, and revolutionary software products, this tool is a perfect complement to your existing control program!

LuminUltra’s 2nd Generation ATP test kits give your team the ability to diagnose, troubleshoot, and solve slime formation problems within a matter of hours, not days or weeks.  Check out our solutions for Industrial Process Water.


Brad Mcilwain

Brad McIlwain has over eight years of experience in the water and wastewater industry. Prior to joining LuminUltra, he worked for several years as a consulting engineer, where he helped solve complex water and wastewater treatment process issues. He has a particular interest in water system corrosion. During his Master’s, his research focused on water quality and corrosion in premise plumbing. Brad enjoys being outdoors, spending as many weekends as possible camping, hiking, and cycling.

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