by Sean Griffin, December 10, 2009
Enzymes….The Organic Eater
Enzymes play a vital role in our existence. Although they themselves are not considered to be living organisms, they are found in all living beings on Earth. Enzymes are catalysts for biochemical reactions in living things. Not discovered until 1835, these microscopic entities consume organic matter by breaking down complex organics to their original chemical building blocks.
Life is based on the transfer of energy so without enzymes we would cease to exist. Giving us the ability to breakdown food, enzymes are a major part of our digestive process. Enzymes can be used to breakdown chemicals such as fats, oils, detergents, and wastes. We also owe these tiny catalysts thanks as they play a major role in the cleanup of our environment. Oil spills that have the potential of devastating life in our oceans and surrounding shores are managed and cleaned up by large quantities of specific enzymes.
Enzymes are used as a biological agent to remove and neutralize contaminants in polluted water or soil in a process called bioremediation. Bioremediation can effectively degrade fossil fuels and fuel oils. Enzymes designed to bioremediate almost all fractions of crude or modified petroleum products were used in one of the worst oil spills ever recorder, The Valdez, owned and operated by Exxon. In 1989 the Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of oil in the Prince William Sound in Alaska. This was devastating to the surrounding ecosystem and opened the world’s eyes to the hazards of oil spills and the risk in transporting. The spill area eventually totaled 11,000 square miles and cleanup efforts went several years after this catastrophic incident.
Enzymes are utilized in a similar fashion to help with water issues associated with swimming pools and spas. This natural method combats several contaminants to include body oils, sun-tan lotions, cosmetics, and wastes. These contagions combined with your sanitizers can lead to a “bathtub ring”, chloramine build up and cloudy water as a result of organic saturation. Enzyme based products are used around the world on a grand scale to help with water chemistry issues.
Used in swimming pools, enzymes can reduce the chlorine demand, and if you use a mesh cover, adding an enzyme treatment during closing will significantly reduce opening clean up time and expense. Common now are pool enzyme products mixed with phosphate removers. Phosphate is one of algae's favorite foods, so eliminating them from your pool is a good idea. Popular manufacturers of swimming pool enzymes include Natural Chemistry and Orb-3 products, made by Great Lakes Biochemical. If it's good enough for cleaning up oil spills, think what it could clean up in your pool!
As a perfect example, we once had a call to a pool by a customer who apparently made someone very angry. When we showed up, there were 6 open quarts of motor oil that someone had thrown over the fence, into the pool. What a mess! After removing the nearly empty bottles, we added a gallon of enzymes - leaving the filter system off. Overnight the oil had been eaten by the enzymes, and I have been a big fan of using enzymes in pools ever since. If you forget to pay your auto mechanic, don't worry, pool enzymes will come to the rescue!