Biological Oxygen Demand

 

Background Information
Microorganisms such as bacteria are responsible for decomposing organic waste. When organic matter such as dead plants, leaves, grass clippings, manure, sewage, or even food waste is present in a water supply, the bacteria will begin the process of breaking down this waste. When this happens, much of the available dissolved oxygen is consumed by aerobic bacteria, robbing other aquatic organisms of the oxygen they need to live.

Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) is a measure of the oxygen used by microorganisms to decompose this waste. If there is a large quantity of organic waste in the water supply, there will also be a lot of bacteria present working to decompose this waste. In this case, the demand for oxygen will be high (due to all the bacteria) so the BOD level will be high. As the waste is consumed or dispersed through the water, BOD levels will begin to decline.

Factors affecting BOD level in the water:

1.      The main factor that contributes to a high BOD in a food processing plant waste water is the presence of high level of organic matter or food in the waste water.  Other organic matters that contribute to high BOD in a body of water are dead plants, leaves, grass clippings, manure and sewage.  As mentioned above, when organic matter level in the water supply is high, the bacteria will begin the process of breaking down this waste. When this happens, much of the available dissolved oxygen is consumed by aerobic bacteria, robbing other aquatic organisms of the oxygen they need to live.

2.      Nitrates and phosphates - in a body of water can contribute to high BOD levels. Nitrates and phosphates are plant nutrients and can cause plant life and algae to grow quickly. When plants grow quickly, they also die quickly. This contributes to the organic waste in the water, which is then decomposed by bacteria. This results in a high BOD level.

3.      The temperature of the water - can also contribute to high BOD levels. For example, warmer water usually will have a higher BOD level than colder water. As water temperature increases, the rate of photosynthesis by algae and other plant life in the water also increases. When this happens, plants grow faster and also die faster. When the plants die, they fall to the bottom where they are decomposed by bacteria. The bacteria require oxygen for this process so the BOD is high at this location. Therefore, increased water temperatures will speed up bacterial decomposition and result in higher BOD levels.

When BOD levels are high, dissolved oxygen (DO) levels decrease because the oxygen that is available in the water is being consumed by the bacteria. Since less dissolved oxygen is available in the water, fish and other aquatic organisms may not survive.  Therefore, if a food processing plant waste water has a higher BOD level when it is discharged to the city waste water system, it will cost the company a lot of money that the state government charges them to treat this water and decrease its level BOD to a safe level before discharging it into the natural water reservoirs, so it will not negatively affect the life of the fish and other aquatic organisms.

For those customers who are concerned about the BOD level in their waste water, the following recommendations will help them lower the BOD level:

1.      Dry pick up prior to cleaning -  a thorough dry pick up of food residue from the processing area will reduce the amounts of organic matter in the waste water.  This in turn will reduce the amount of BOD required by the microorganisms to decompose these organic matters in the waste water.

2.      Using nitrate and phosphate free cleaning and sanitizing chemicals since nitrate and phosphate contributes to high BOD level, using cleaning and sanitizing chemicals that are free of these two compounds will reduce the BOD in the waste water.  For recommendations on Zep chemicals that are free of these two compounds, please contact our tech services department.

3.      Reduce the temperature of the waste water.  This will slow down the growth of algae in the water and therefore reduce the BOD level that is required by the microorganisms to decompose the algae after they die.

Test Procedure
The BOD test takes 5 days to complete and is performed using a dissolved oxygen test kit. The BOD level is determined by comparing the DO level of a water sample taken immediately with the DO level of a water sample that has been incubated in a dark location for 5 days. The difference between the two DO levels represents the amount of oxygen required for the decomposition of any organic material in the sample and is a good approximation of the BOD level.

  1. Take 2 samples of water
     
  2. Record the DO level (ppm) of one immediately using the method described in the dissolved oxygen test.
     
  3. Place the second water sample in an incubator in complete darkness at 20 C for 5 days. If you don't have an incubator, wrap the water sample bottle in aluminum foil or black electrical tape and store in a dark place at room temperature (20 C or 68 F).
     
  4. After 5 days, take another dissolved oxygen reading (ppm) using the dissolved oxygen test kit.
     
  5. Subtract the Day 5 reading from the Day 1 reading to determine the BOD level. Record your final BOD result in ppm.

What to Expect

BOD Level
(in ppm)

Water Quality

1 - 2

Very Good
There will not be much organic waste present in the water supply.

3 - 5

Fair: Moderately Clean

6 - 9

Poor: Somewhat Polluted
Usually indicates organic matter is present and bacteria are decomposing this waste.

100 or greater

Very Poor: Very Polluted
Contains organic waste.

NOTE: Generally, when BOD levels are high, there is a decline in DO levels. This is because the demand for oxygen by the bacteria is high and they are taking that oxygen from the oxygen dissolved in the water. If there is no organic waste present in the water, there won't be as many bacteria present to decompose it and thus the BOD will tend to be lower and the DO level will tend to be higher.

At high BOD levels, organisms such as macroinvertebrates that are more tolerant of lower dissolved oxygen (i.e. leeches and sludge worms) may appear and become numerous. Organisms that need higher oxygen levels (i.e. caddisfly larvae and mayfly nymphs) will NOT survive.