, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 507–515 | Cite as

Assessment of microbial aerosol emissions in an urban wastewater treatment plant operated with activated sludge process

  • Saied Fathi
  • Yaghoub Hajizadeh
  • Mahnaz Nikaeen
  • Mozhgan Gorbani
Original Paper


Wastewater that enters wastewater treatment plants contains lots of pathogenic and nonpathogenic microorganisms which can become bioaerosols during treatment processes and pose health hazard to workers and nearby residents. The emission of the bioaerosols from an urban wastewater treatment plant in spring and summer in different locations and downwind of the plant adopting an extended mechanical aeration system was investigated. Samples of bacteria and fungi were collected within 6 months at 10 selected points by an Anderson one-stage impactor. The highest concentration of bacteria (mean 1373 CFU/m3, 741–2817 CFU/m3) and fungi (mean 1384 CFU/m3, 212–1610 CFU/m3) was found in downwind of the aeration basins. Statistical analysis showed a significant relationship between concentration of bacterial bioaerosols at downwind side of the aeration basins and wind speed (p value <0.05) and temperature (p value <0.05). Also, in the spring and summer, between the number of bacteria and fungi inside the plant and outside the plant (downwind) a significant correlation was observed (p value ≤0.05). The concentrations of bacteria at a distance of 500 m downwind were much higher than those at the background (upwind) point in spring and summer. The processes of wastewater treatment especially using mechanical equipment to create turbulence can be considered as a major source of spreading airborne microorganisms to ambient air of wastewater treatment plants, and the bioaerosols can be dispersed to downwind distances affecting the nearby neighboring. Therefore, in order to decrease the bioaerosols emission, doing some course of actions such as covering the surface of aeration basins, changing the aeration methods and aeration equipment (e. g using diffuser aerator) may be effective.


Air pollution Wastewater treatment Aeration Bioaerosols 



This study was carried out as an M.Sc. dissertation and supported by Vice Chancellery for Research of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences and Chaharmahal-e-Bakhtiyari Province Water and Wastewater Company (Grant No: 394260).


  1. Basart, S., Pay Pérez, M. T., Jorba Casellas, O., Pérez García-Pando, C., Jiménez Guerrero, P., Schulz, M., et al. (2012). Aerosols in the CALIOPE air quality modelling system: Evaluation and analysis of PM levels, optical depths and chemical composition over Europe. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 12(7), 3363–3392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bauer, H., Fuerhacker, M., Zibuschka, F., Schmid, H., & Puxbaum, H. (2002). Bacteria and fungi in aerosols generated by two different types of wastewater treatment plants. Water Research, 36(16), 3965–3970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brandi, G., Sisti, M., & Amagliani, G. (2000). Evaluation of the environmental impact of microbial aerosols generated by wastewater treatment plants utilizing different aeration systems. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 88(5), 845–852.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bredholt, H., Fjærvik, E., Johnsen, G., & Zotchev, S. B. (2008). Actinomycetes from sediments in the Trondheim fjord, Norway: Diversity and biological activity. Marine Drugs, 6(1), 12–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brooks, J. P., Gerba, C. P., & Pepper, I. (2004). Aerosol emission, fate, and transport from municipal and animal wastes. Journal of Residuals Science & Technology, 1(1), 13–25.Google Scholar
  6. Burkowska, A., Kalwasińska, A., & Walczak, M. (2012). Airborne mesophilic bacteria at the Ciechocinek health resort. Polish Journal of Environmental Studies, 21(2), 307–312.Google Scholar
  7. Carducci, A., Tozzi, E., Rubulotta, E., Casini, B., Cantiani, L., Rovini, E., et al. (2000). Assessing airborne biological hazard from urban wastewater treatment. Water Research, 34(4), 1173–1178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ding, W., Li, L., Han, Y., Liu, J., & Liu, J. (2016). Site-related and seasonal variation of bioaerosol emission in an indoor wastewater treatment station: Level, characteristics of particle size, and microbial structure. Aerobiologia, 32(2), 211–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Douwes, J., Mannetje, A. T., & Heederik, D. (2001). Work-related symptoms in sewage treatment workers. Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine, 8(1), 39–45.Google Scholar
  10. Douwes, J., Thorne, P., Pearce, N., & Heederik, D. (2003). Bioaerosol health effects and exposure assessment: Progress and prospects. Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 47(3), 187–200.Google Scholar
  11. Dutkiewicz, J., Cholewa, G., Sitkowska, J., Krysinska-Traczyk, E., Skorska, C., & Prazmo, Z. (2003). Exposure to bioaerosols in a municipal sewage treatment plant. Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine, 10, 241–248.Google Scholar
  12. Fannin, K. F., Vana, S. C., & Jakubowski, W. (1985). Effect of an activated sludge wastewater treatment plant on ambient air densities of aerosols containing bacteria and viruses. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 49(5), 1191–1196.Google Scholar
  13. Fernando, N. L., & Fedorak, P. M. (2005). Changes at an activated sludge sewage treatment plant alter the numbers of airborne aerobic microorganisms. Water Research, 39(19), 4597–4608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gotkowska Płachta, A., Filipkowska, Z., Korzeniewska, E., Janczukowicz, W., Dixon, B., Gołaś, I., et al. (2013). Airborne microorganisms emitted from wastewater treatment plant treating domestic wastewater and meat processing industry wastes. CLEAN—Soil, Air Water, 41(5), 429–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hameed, A. A., Habeebuallah, T., Mashat, B., Elgendy, S., Elmorsy, T., & Elserougy, S. (2015). Airborne fungal pollution at waste application facilities. Aerobiologia, 31(3), 283–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Heinonen-Tanski, H., Reponen, T., & Koivunen, J. (2009). Airborne enteric coliphages and bacteria in sewage treatment plants. Water Research, 43(9), 2558–2566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ikehata, K., Murphy, R. R., Liu, Y., Sun, R. N., & Nessl, M. B. (2010). Health effects associated with wastewater treatment, reuse, and disposal. Water Environment Research, 82(10), 2047–2066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jones, A. M., & Harrison, R. M. (2004). The effects of meteorological factors on atmospheric bioaerosol concentrations—a review. Science of the Total Environment, 326(1), 151–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Korzeniewska, E. (2011). Emission of bacteria and fungi in the air from wastewater treatment plants—a review. Frontiers in bioscience (Scholar edition), 3(2), 393–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Korzeniewska, E., Filipkowska, Z., Gotkowska-Płachta, A., Janczukowicz, W., Dixon, B., & Czułowska, M. (2009). Determination of emitted airborne microorganisms from a BIO-PAK wastewater treatment plant. Water Research, 43(11), 2841–2851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Korzeniewska, E., Filipkowska, Z., Gotkowska-Płachta, A., Janczukowicz, W., & Rutkowski, B. (2008). Bacteriological pollution of the atmospheric air at the municipal and dairy wastewater treatment plant area and in its surroundings. Archives of Environmental Protection, 34(4), 13–23.Google Scholar
  22. Kruczalak, K., & Olanczuk-Neyman, K. (2004). Microorganisms in the air over wastewater treatment plants. Polish Journal of Environmental Studies, 13(5), 537–542.Google Scholar
  23. Laitinen, S., Kangas, J., Kotimaa, M., Liesivuori, J., Martikainen, P. J., Nevalainen, A., et al. (1994). Workers’ exposure to airborne bacteria and endotoxins at industrial wastewater treatment plants. American Industrial Hygiene Association, 55(11), 1055–1060.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Li, Y., Qiu, X., Li, M., Ma, Z., Niu, T., & Feng, Y. (2012). Concentration and size distribution of airborne actinomycetes in a municipal wastewater treatment plant. Polish Journal of Environmental Studies, 21, 1305–1311.Google Scholar
  25. Niazi, S., Hassanvand, M. S., Mahvi, A. H., Nabizadeh, R., Alimohammadi, M., Nabavi, S., et al. (2015). Assessment of bioaerosol contamination (bacteria and fungi) in the largest urban wastewater treatment plant in the Middle East. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 22(20), 16014–16021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nielsen, B. H., Nielsen, E. M., & Breum, N. O. (2000). Seasonal variation in bioaerosol exposure during biowaste collection and measurements of leaked percolate. Waste Management and Research, 18(1), 64–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nikaeen, M., Hatamzadeh, M., Hasanzadeh, A., Sahami, E., & Joodan, I. (2009). Bioaerosol emissions arising during application of municipal solid-waste compost. Aerobiologia, 25(1), 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Oppliger, A., Hilfiker, S., & Duc, T. V. (2005). Influence of seasons and sampling strategy on assessment of bioaerosols in sewage treatment plants in Switzerland. Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 49(5), 393–400.Google Scholar
  29. Orsini, M., Laurenti, P., Boninti, F., Arzani, D., Ianni, A., & Romano-Spica, V. (2002). A molecular typing approach for evaluating bioaerosol exposure in wastewater treatment plant workers. Water Research, 36(5), 1375–1378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pascual, L., Pérez-Luz, S., Yanez, M. A., Santamaría, A., Gibert, K., Salgot, M., et al. (2003). Bioaerosol emission from wastewater treatment plants. Aerobiologia, 19(3–4), 261–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Raaschou-Nielsen, O., Andersen, Z. J., Beelen, R., Samoli, E., Stafoggia, M., Weinmayr, G., et al. (2013). Air pollution and lung cancer incidence in 17 European cohorts: Prospective analyses from the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE). The Lancet Oncology, 14(9), 813–822.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ranalli, G., Principi, P., & Sorlini, C. (2000). Bacterial aerosol emission from wastewater treatment plants: Culture methods and bio-molecular tools. Aerobiologia, 16(1), 39–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sahlström, L., Aspan, A., Bagge, E., Danielsson-Tham, M.-L., & Albihn, A. (2004). Bacterial pathogen incidences in sludge from Swedish sewage treatment plants. Water Research, 38(8), 1989–1994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sánchez-Monedero, M., Aguilar, M., Fenoll, R., & Roig, A. (2008). Effect of the aeration system on the levels of airborne microorganisms generated at wastewater treatment plants. Water Research, 42(14), 3739–3744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stellacci, P., Liberti, L., Notarnicola, M., & Haas, C. N. (2010). Hygienic sustainability of site location of wastewater treatment plants: A case study. i. estimating odour emission impact. Desalination, 253(1), 51–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Thorn, J., Beijer, L., Jonsson, T., & Rylander, R. (2002). Measurement strategies for the determination of airborne bacterial endotoxin in sewage treatment plants. Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 46(6), 549–554.Google Scholar
  37. Thorn, J., & Kerekes, E. (2001). Health effects among employees in sewage treatment plants: A literature survey. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 40(2), 170–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Uhrbrand, K., Schultz, A. C., & Madsen, A. M. (2011). Exposure to airborne noroviruses and other bioaerosol components at a wastewater treatment plant in Denmark. Food and Environmental Virology, 3(3–4), 130–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Viegas, C., Dias, R., Gomes, A. Q., Meneses, M., Sabino, R., & Viegas, S. (2014). Aspergillus flavus contamination in two Portuguese wastewater treatment plants. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 77(14–16), 796–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Vítězová, M., Vítěz, T., Mlejnková, H., & Lošák, T. (2013). Microbial contamination of the air at the wastewater treatment plant. Acta Universitatis Agriculturae et Silviculturae Mendelianae Brunensis, 60(3), 233–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wlazło, A., Pastuszka, J., & Łudzeń-Izbińska, B. (2001). Assessment of workers’ exposure to airborne bacteria at a small wastewater treatment plant. Medycyna Pracy, 53(2), 109–114.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Health Engineering and Environment Research Center, School of Public HealthIsfahan University of Medical SciencesIsfahanIran

Personalised recommendations