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Commercial application of polychaete sand filters for wastewater remediation and broodstock feeds

Palmer, P.J. (2011) Commercial application of polychaete sand filters for wastewater remediation and broodstock feeds. Technical Report. State of Queensland.




Prototype sand-worm filtration beds were constructed at two prawn farms and one fish farm to assess and demonstrate their polychaete (marine worm) production and wastewater remediation capacities at semi-commercial scale. Wastewater treatment properties were monitored and worms produced were assessed and either sold for bait or used by the farms’ hatcheries as broodstock (prawn or fish breeder) feed.

More than 34 megalitres of prawn- and fish-pond water was beneficially treated in the 116-319-d trial. The design of the polychaete-assisted sand filters (PASFs) constructed at each farm affected their water handling rates, which on average ranged from 315 to 1000 L m-2 d-1 at the three farms. A low profile design incorporating shallow bunded ponds made from polyethylene liner and timber stakes provided the easiest method of construction. This simple design applied at broad scale facilitated the highest quantities of treated water and the greatest worm production. Designs with higher sides increased the head pressure above the sand bed surface, thus increasing the amount of water that could be treated each day.
Most water qualities were affected in a similar way to that demonstrated in the previous tank trials: dissolved oxygen, pH, total suspended solids and chlorophyll a levels were all consistently significantly lowered as pond water percolated through the sand bed, and dissolved forms of nitrogen and phosphorus were marginally increased on several occasions. However, unlike the previous smaller-scale tank trials, total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) levels were both significantly lowered by these larger-scale PASFs. The reasons for this are still unclear and require further research. Maximum TN and TP removals detected in the trial were 48.8% and 67.5%, respectively, and average removals (in unfed beds) at the three farms ranged from 20.0 to 27.7% for TN and from 22.8 to 40.8% for TP. Collectively, these results demonstrate the best suspended solids, chlorophyll and macronutrient removal capacities so far reported for any mariculture wastewater treatment methodology to date.

Supplemental feeding of PASFs with fish meal was also investigated at one farm as a potential means of increasing their polychaete biomass production. Whilst fed beds produced higher biomass (152 ± 35 g m-2) compared with unfed beds (89 ± 17 g m-2) after 3.7 months of operation, the low number of replicates (2) prevented statistically significant differences from being demonstrated for either growth or survival. At harvest several months later, worm biomass production was estimated to be similar to, or in slight excess of, previously reported production levels (300-400 g m-2). Several qualities of filtered water appear to have been affected by supplemental feeding: it appeared to marginally lower dissolved oxygen and pH levels, and increased the TN and TP levels though not so much to eliminate significant beneficial water treatment effects.
Periodic sampling during an artificial-tide demonstrated the tendency for treated-water quality changes during the first hour of filtration. Total nitrogen and ammonia peaked early in the tidal flow and then fell to more stable levels for the remainder of the filtration period. Other dissolved nutrients also showed signs of this sand-bed-flushing pattern, and dissolved oxygen tended to climb during the first hour and become more stable thereafter. These patterns suggest that the routine sampling of treated water undertaken at mid-inflow during the majority of the wider study would likely have overestimated the levels of TN and dissolved nutrients discharged from the beds, and hence underestimated the PASFs treatment efficacies in this regard.

Analyses of polychaete biomass collected from each bed in the study revealed that the worms were free from contamination with the main prawn viruses that would create concerns for their feeding to commercial prawn broodstock in Australia. Their documented proximal and nutritional contents also provide a guide for hatchery operators when using live or frozen stock. Their dry matter content ranged from 18.3 to 22.3%, ash ranged from 10.2 to 14.0%, gross energy from 20.2 to 21.5 MJ kg-1, and fat from 5.0 to 9.2%. Their cholesterol levels ranged from 0.86 to 1.03% of dry matter, whilst total phospholipids range from 0.41 to 0.72%.

Thirty-one different fatty acids were present at detectable (≥0.005% of dry matter) levels in the sampled worm biomass. Palmitic acid was by far the most prevalent fatty acid detected (1.21 ± 0.18%), followed by eicosapentaenoic (EPA) (0.48 ± 0.03%), stearic (0.46 ± 0.04%), vaccenic (0.38 ± 0.05%), adrenic (0.35 ± 0.02%), docosadienoic (0.28 ± 0.02%), arachidonic (AA) (0.22 ± 0.01%), palmitoleic (0.20 ± 0.04%) and 23 other fatty acids with average contents of less than 0.2% of dry matter. Supplemental feeding with fish meal at one farm appeared to increase the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content of the worms considerably, and modify the average AA : EPA : DHA from 1.0 : 2.7 : 0.3 to 1.0 : 2.0 : 1.1. Consistent with previous results, the three most heavily represented amino acids in the dry matter of sampled worms were glutamic acid (8.5 ± 0.2%), aspartic acid (5.5 ± 0.1%) and glycine (4.9 ± 0.5%).

These biomass content results suggest that worms produced in PASF systems are well suited to feeding to prawn and fish broodstock, and provide further strong evidence of the potential to modify their contents for specific nutritional uses. The falling wild-fishery production of marine bloodworms in Queensland is typical of diminishing polychaete resources world-wide and demonstrates the need to develop sustainable production methods here and overseas. PASF systems offer the dual benefits of wastewater treatment for environmental management and increased productivity through a valuable secondary crop grown exclusively on waste nutrients.

Item Type:Monograph (Technical Report)
Projects:Landcare Sustainable Practices Grant No. SEQC1418
Additional Information:© The State of Queensland
Keywords:Mariculture; wastewater; bioremediation; polychaetes; sand filtration; water qualities; nutrients; fatty acids; aquaculture; prawns; farming.
Subjects:Aquaculture and Fisheries > Aquaculture > Mariculture
Aquaculture and Fisheries > Aquaculture > By region or country
Live Archive:20 Jun 2011 05:55
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:43

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