An assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering named Adam Smith, and his team of researchers examined samples from groundwater aquifers and a well-known groundwater treatment facility in Southern California to find differences in ARG concentrations. They discovered that the treatment facility diminished almost all targeted ARGs to below detection limits, yet the groundwater samples showed a clear presence of ARGs in control locations as well as locations recharged with water from the facility. Due to this discovery, it is apparent that antibiotics, ARGs and antibiotic-resistant pathogens are increasing in water sources from an overuse of antibiotics in society. In a normal water treatment cycle, wastewater is first treated in a wastewater treatment facility. This study demonstrates that this water maintains high ARGs, as it continues through treatment. The water is then purified using advanced physical and chemical techniques such as reverse osmosis, a process that purifies drinking water by using a partially permeable membrane. Examining differences in ARGs between different water sources is crucial in evaluating future health concerns, such as the development of superbugs. Wastewater treatment plants are not typically designed for removal of micropollutants like antibiotics so they often persist in treatment processes, leading to high densities of ARG resistant bacteria at different stages of treatment. When this water is exposed to an aquifer, it can potentially become contaminated with ARGs and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To worsen the problem, ARGs are easily transferred through horizontal gene transfer, an even greater risk for antibiotic-resistant pathogens. For handling this increasing pressure on global water supply, Wastewater reuse serves as the most cost and energy-efficient through Adam Smith’s perspective. Although, the hazard of spreading antibiotic resistance should demonstrate which methods gain more traction as time passes. Reducing hazardous unknowns that remain in the water buffers could be a significant method of ensuring that water, containing no ARGs or other contaminants, reaches our taps.
This article’s topic and message relates to both course material as well as real-world issues concerning biology. Relating the article to topics we have discussed and analyzed in class, our latest unit dealt with processes such as osmosis. More specifically, we learned in class that osmosis is a process by which molecules of a solvent pass through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated region into a more concentrated region, equalizing the concentrations on each side of the membrane. In the article, water is told to be purified by different processes such as reverse osmosis, a process that purifies drinking water by using a partially permeable membrane. Making this connection to the class, it is easier to understand why the process is used in purification as well as this particular process in general. Additionally, in the previous unit, we heavily dealt with the special properties of water, which is stated to be an important factor in the ability of ARGs to persist within water even through treatment in a facility. Not only do these examples clearly relate to topics discussed in class, but these concepts ultimately connect to the importance of evaluating future health concerns of the planet as well. The article is relevant today since this is a very new scientific discovery about our global water supply that could potentially affect our planet in negative ways, if not dealt with properly and efficiently. The reuse of water was told to be a leading way to prevent ARGs from negatively impacting our health, therefore making this article an important PSA for people around the world.