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Top 3 Questions from AWWA’s WQTC17


AWWA’s WQTC is a favourite event among many water quality professionals (us included) and after another excellent conference, we wanted to answer the top 3 questions we were asked at the conference in Portland, Oregon.

1. What does your test measure? Can it test for specific species?

Our tests measure the ATP concentration in water, wastewater, and solid/deposit samples. ATP, adenosine triphosphate, is the molecule associated with cellular energy in all living and active cells, therefore, our tests provide you with a measure of total biological content in less than 5 minutes. This allows you to assess the overall microbiological risk and confirm cleanliness quickly and efficiently.

Common applications in the drinking water industry include: auditing and troubleshooting water distribution systems, optimizing flushing events; monitoring storage tanks, and monitoring and optimizing pre-treatment processes such as biologically active filters and membrane/RO filtration units.

2. How do ATP results compare to HPC/E.coli/Total coliform results?

Because E.coli/Total coliform tests and heterotrophic plate counts – or culture tests in general – are measuring specific types of microbes, there is no direct correlation between these results and ATP concentrations. In general, the higher the ATP level, the higher the risk of non-compliance, biofilm formation, pathogen presence and water quality issues.

In controlled settings where the microbial population is known – for example, a water sample spiked with heterotrophic bacteria – ATP will have a positive directional correlation with HPCs; the greater the ATP/mL, the higher the CFU/mL. However, in the field during nitrification events where there is an abundance of autotrophic bacteria, ATP levels can be well into the high-risk range while HPC results remain low. ATP provides a risk assessment and can help you understand where there is contamination and where remediation and/or further analysis is required.

3. How does your test differ from competing technologies on the market?

While there are many valuable methods available to monitor microbial growth (culture-based, MPN, E.coli and Total coliform, metagenomics, etc.), ATP is the only method that provides a rapid assessment of the total active microbial population. It is typically used as a first warning sign or risk assessment tool in drinking water treatment and distribution plants and can help optimize the use of other speciation methods.

How does our test differ from other ATP tests on the market? The first distinction to make is between 1st generation and 2nd generation ATP methods. 1st generation ATP methods are ATP pens which are commonly used in food and beverage and certain healthcare industries. These are swab-based methods which are effective for surface hygiene monitoring but are not optimized to handle the many interferences present in fluid and solid samples nor do they provide the sensitivity required for treated water samples.

LuminUItra’s methods are optimized to eliminate interferences from chemicals and solids and provide a wide detection range: a low detection limit of 0.01 pg/mL for ultrapure water samples, and up to 10,000,000 pg/mL for wastewater and biofiltration applications. Our methods have also been validated by several third-party laboratories for repeatability and reproducibility ensuring the most accurate results.

We also offer a suite of tools to help you optimize the use of your ATP tests by providing water quality data management software, LuminUltra Cloud, with decision support capabilities that automatically correlate and identify trends between ATP and any other biological, chemical and physical test results and can generate scheduled reports for your team. Our training platform – LuminUltra Academy – and Help Portal also provides your team with the ability to learn about ATP monitoring, gain on-demand protocol and application training, and easily access all our FAQs to ensure optimal results and help you quickly interpret ATP data.

Further reading:

To learn more about the science of ATP and how it’s able to quantify the total microbiological population,  check out this article: What Is ATP and What Does It Do?


LuminUltra Team

Founded in 1995, LuminUltra is a molecular biology diagnostic testing company headquartered in Canada with operations in 6 countries. It is widely recognized globally as a leader in developing tests and reagents for environmental, industrial, and diagnostic monitoring applications and was a key supplier of COVID-19 diagnostic testing reagents to the Government of Canada.

Dozens of Fortune 500 customers across more than 80 countries trust LuminUltra’s technology, production reliability and history of customer service excellence to deliver their essential services in a safe state.

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