Sewage Treatment Plants – Bug Farms and their Farmers


A colleague recently conveyed a conversation he’d had with an operator at a sewage treatment plant. Society tends to have an unfounded stigma of sewage treatment plants, so to soften the blow when asked what he does for a living, the operator replied “I’m a farmer; a bug farmer”.

My personal interaction with operators at bug farms – aka sewage treatment plants – is that they are industrious, diligent and proud of the work they do. And for good reason! Admittedly very little thought is given to what happens after that toilet is flushed, after that plug is pulled from the bath drain, after you’ve finished brushing your teeth and after you’ve finished washing your veggies. The sewage network is underground, out of sight and out of mind.

A sewage treatment plant is at that end of that network and is the barrier or filter to our environment. The wastewater needs to go somewhere, be it our oceans or our rivers in most instances. It’s also worth noting that many water utilities treat their sewage to a level where water can be reused and returned back to the community to alleviate the stresses of water storage, production and consumption.

The process to protect our environment is primarily a biological one. Biology, or bugs, in the treatment process are the frontline workers that ensure clean, unpolluted water is delivered back to the environment. The bugs are part of a community much like our own communities.  Just like our own communities the bug communities work best when all hands are on deck, and when their environment is free of stresses and encumbrances. The bug farmers are the first responder to ensure their bugs are happy. They are the psychologists, the doctors and gate keepers, working to provide an optimum living environment for the bugs and their community, thereby protecting the general health & wellbeing.

That responsibility – keeping an eye on their health and protecting the community – can also be a challenge.  ATP is a tool that can help address these challenges quickly, allowing bug farmers more time to do additional tasks. After all, in agricultural farming “tools” are employed to make light work for the farmer.  So how can ATP testing help?

1. Quantifies the bug population

Bugs are the heavy lifters. They are the front-line workers in the sewage treatment process. The more workers we have the better. LuminUltra’s QG21W test kit quantifies the entire living population of bugs in the wastewater process within minutes.

2. Monitors the bug health & environment

A healthy population of bugs is desirable to get the job done efficiently. However, the health of the bugs is strongly influenced by their environment. LuminUltra QG21W test kit quantifies both the living and dead population of bugs to quantify their stress levels. An unfavourable environment will stress the bug community, causing the ratio of dead to living bugs to increase. This information helps the bug farmer to identify and tackle the environmental challenges such as toxicity in the bug’s community and remove the obstacles and barriers to make it easier for the bugs to work and thrive. LuminUltra QG21W test kit quantifies the number of living bugs in their environment relative to the amount of sludge, which includes dead bugs, and inert organics and inorganics. Use this information to maximize the health of the bugs and minimize the obstacles to help them perform at their peak.

3. Notifies you of intruders to keep the riff raff out

The farmer now takes on the community role of police officer – keeping the riff raff out of the bug community. In sewage treatment plant terms, this is the filamentous bacteria which sidle their way into the community and cause havoc. LuminUltra QG21Wa test kit provides the farmer a predictive notification to shut the gate before any riff raff intruders get into the farm.

4. Saves you time so you can keep up with all the other farm chores

There’s lots to do on the farm apart from keeping the bugs happy and their community pleasant and secure. No matter what your profession, time is always a challenge. LuminUltra QG21W test kits provide all the relevant and necessary information for bug farmers in less than 5 minutes, allowing more time to complete their other chores.

Thumbs up to the bug farmers out there. They play an important part in our communities and for the environment we all live in. It’s worth thinking about this when you next speak to them. There should be no stigma attached to the tremendous and multi-varied role they play in our communities.


Arthur Kokolekos

Arthur is our Aussie connection, and brings over 30 years of experience to our team in general and analytical instrumentation in the water & wastewater marketplace. Arthur’s role is to create new and manage existing relationships with LuminUltra customers and resellers in the rapidly growing region of Asia Pacific. Melbourne - home base for LuminUltra APAC - is known as one of the world’s most livable cities which makes it an ideal place for Arthur to live, work and raise a family. His passions are his four princesses (wife & three daughters), family and friends.

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