After an unusually hot summer with little rain, the heatwave breaking and the heavy rain has led to water companies pumping sewage water directly into the sea as they empty overflows, and sewage discharges are once again in the news
According to data gathered by environmental campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), there has been storm sewage discharge into the waters at beaches in Cornwall, Devon, Sussex, Essex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Northumberland and Cumbria. After an unusually hot summer with little rain, the heatwave breaking and the heavy rain has led to water companies pumping sewage water directly into the sea as they empty overflows. A tweet by Martyn Craddock showing the sewage emptying into Seaford, East Sussex, clearly shows the sewage discharging into the sea.
Such spillages of human waste into the water environment are increasingly in the public eye, as witnessed in the BBC’s coverage earlier in the year of the untreated sewage being released into Langstone harbour near Portsmouth, for 49 hours. Any release of sewage or slurry to an aquatic environment will introduce bacteria which will then also grow rapidly and multiply. These bacteria use up oxygen in the water, causing dissolved oxygen levels to drop rapidly. When dissolved oxygen levels fall rapidly, this is extremely harmful to the aquatic environment, with visible symptoms such as fish dying en-masse also regularly in the news.
Because human sewage leads to Tryptophan activity, we can measure such spillages of human waste into aquatic environments with a Tryptophan sensor. A sensor for tryptophan can also help identify leakage from sewer pipes in river locations, and, together with other sensors, even differentiate whether it is due to farming or human activity.
“A Tryptophan sensor can also help identify leakage from sewer pipes in river locations, and, together with other sensors, even differentiate whether it is due to farming or human activity”
Farming activities can involve spraying organic fertilisers such as slurry onto field surfaces which in turn runs off into the aquatic system. Slurry is under strict environmental regulations because it is recognised to be extremely harmful to the freshwater environment.
What’s the future of Tryptophan sensors?
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Tryptophan sensors is the ability to combine multiple data channels within the same platform to gain real-time, continuous data from all the complementary sensors, such as the Chelsea technologies algae sensor, the TriLUX. For example, natural organic materials also impact aquatic systems throughout the year, so you also need to monitor fluorescent dissolved organic matter (FDOM). By comparing both FDOM and Tryptophan, it becomes possible to obtain a true base reading that compensates for the variance in organic materials which occurs throughout the year.
Chelsea Technologies sensors
Chelsea Technologies offer both stationary in-line and portable Tryptophan sensors and monitoring systems. Our inline monitoring stations systems such as Aquasentry can be easily fitted at the outflow of waste water treatment plants, be they connected into a piped system or monitoring within a water trough.
Our portable Tryptophan sensors are lightweight, easy to operate, GPS and time stamped, and designed to take into the field to measure bacteria concentrations within the rivers into which the effluent is released.
All our systems provide real-time display and logging of bacteria necessary for water quality monitoring. Red, amber and green threshold levels can be easily set up, with both wall-mounted and portable displays providing graphical and numerical formats.