Fecal contamination of wastewater treatment plants in Portugal
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Reutilization of effluents from wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) for non-potable applications is increasing due to the reduction of sustainable water resources. These products mostly come from municipal WWTP and also from slaughterhouses effluents. The microbiological certification of these products is mandatory before their discharge into the environment. This study evaluates if the treatment applied in WWTP to municipal waters or to poultry slaughterhouse effluents distributed over the Portuguese continental territory is efficient in reducing the microbiological risk associated with the reutilization of those wastewaters and sludges. Fecal indicators Escherichia coli and enterococci were evaluated in 42 and 24 wastewater samples from 14 municipal WWTP and 8 poultry slaughterhouse treatment plants, respectively, by the conventional culture method and a rapid Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) technique. Bacterial enumeration in inflow water from most WWTP was rather high (generally >105 cells/ml), for both E. coli and Enterococcus spp., and the bacterial quantification by FISH was generally higher than enumeration by the conventional culture method. In both types of treatment plants studied, bacterial load from effluents and sludges was not statistically different from the inflows, indicating that the treatment applied seems to be equally unable to reduce the microbiological load of the effluents. These findings may jeopardize the safe reuse of treated wastewaters in agriculture and the quality of the water environment. Therefore, products like water, sewage sludge, and biosolids originated from the municipal and slaughterhouse WWTP studied should not be reutilized, and effluents treatment should be urgently reviewed.
KeywordsAgriculture Contamination Effluents Enterococcus spp. Escherichia coli FISH Wastewater treatment plant Water reuse
The authors want to thank to CIISA (“Centro de Investigação Interdisciplinar em Sanidade Animal”) from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine/University of Lisbon and FCT (“Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia”) for funding (Project UID/CVT/00276/2013).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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