The Effective Microorganisms (EM) used for bioremediation consist of lactic acid bacteria (the same strains found in yogurt), yeasts (the same strains used to make bread and beer), and photosynthetic bacteria (the same strains that are in all healthy soil). Production is a 2-step process called “extension”. First, the beneficial microorganisms are combined with molasses and water. This solution is then left to ferment in order to replicate or “extend” the beneficial microorganisms. With extension facilities around the lake, it would be possible to produce enough bioremediation solution to supply all the wastewater treatment plants and distribute to farmers and businesses.
In a non-polluted environment, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms are constantly at work breaking down organic matter and keeping the ecosystem balanced and healthy. When an ecosystem is heavily and consistently contaminated, these beneficial organisms can’t survive the onslaught and die off. Bioremediation reintroduces these pollution-eating Effective Microorganisms [EM] in sufficient quantities and with adequate support so that they can restore and rebuild the ecosystem “from the ground up”.
Beneficial microorganisms have been shown in many studies to both drastically reduce coliform levels and to increase plant yields and growth rates — thus, they can be used in the Lake Atitlán area to both treat wastewater and to improve soils to facilitate a transition to organic farming. The result will be that Lake Atitlán will have fewer sewage nutrients and fewer chemical nutrients flowing into it, allowing it to maintain a healthy balance while the longer-term solutions are implemented.
LAEIG plans to build several production facilities for Effective Microorganisms and to use these beneficial microorganisms to combat the pathogens and chemical fertilizer problems at their sources.
How We Will Use EM at Lake Atitlán
Lake Atitlán is nearly 25 cubic kilometers in volume, and regenerating it is a massive, but necessary, undertaking. The key is starting small and scaling up. This campaign will fund the construction of a first EM facility and demo site in Santiago, Atitlán. This site will serve as an educational hub for workshops and demonstrations to raise awareness about the use and effectiveness of EM, as well as produce roughly 500 gallons a week of Extended, Activated EM to use in local hotels, waste water treatment plants, for local farmers, etc.
1. Wastewater Treatment
EM will be distributed to waste water treatment plants and local hotels and businesses in order to get the good bacteria into the sewage systems to break down harmful bacteria and pathogens before they enter the lake. This will be done in conjunction with AMSCLAE scientists for monitoring, and will provide a huge savings to local municipalities. This will be a highly effective “stop-gap” measure while better waste management measures are researched and developed by local municipalities.
2. Organic Agriculture + Permaculture
EM will also be given to farmers, helping them to regenerate their soil and transition to organic agriculture. We are already working with ADENISA, Aprocamca, Agroinsumos Organicos, Xesuj Organicos, and an increasing number of growers’ associations to develop organic composting programs as well as soil amendment and remediation practices using EM.
References for EM Usage in Similar Scenarios around the World
- This is a fabulous study done by UNICEF in Uganda for EM used in latrines.
- This study shows a 92% reduction in costs at a waste water treatment plant in Japan while input increased 123%.
- I think this quote from a study done by the City of Meridian Texas says it all about the odor-eliminating power and phosphorous-reduction power of EM. Here’s a quote from the study: “Odor was eliminated within 2 hours of the first application and did not return until after the trial had completed. Grease solids that were visible on lift station walls were digested within the first week of applications. Phosphorus levels dropped from 3.92 to 0.13 during the 4-week trial.”
- City of Cartagena, Colombia wastewater application. EM only had 2.5 hours of retention time and reduced TSS (Total Suspended Solids) by 68% and BOD (biological Oxygen Demand) by 66 % and total coliforms by 91%!
- A case study of a wastewater treatment plant in Poland.
- A study on another wastewater treatment plant in Poland showing very significant improvement in all outflow parameters.
- Here’s a study done in India using EM with the main goal of reducing the energy costs of the wastewater treatment plant by 50%. They hit the goal by achieving 54% energy costs savings as well as the always present reduction in all parameters of effluent.
- City of Los Angeles case study that documents a complete recovery of the site using bioremediation.