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Survival of Escherichia coli in stormwater biofilters

  • Chemical, microbiological, spatial characteristics and impacts of contaminants from urban catchments: CABRRES project
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Biofilters are widely adopted in Australia for stormwater treatment, but the reported removal of common faecal indicators (such as Escherichia coli (E. coli)) varies from net removal to net leaching. Currently, the underlying mechanisms that govern the faecal microbial removal in the biofilters are poorly understood. Therefore, it is important to study retention and subsequent survival of faecal microorganisms in the biofilters under different biofilter designs and operational characteristics. The current study investigates how E. coli survival is influenced by temperature, moisture content, sunlight exposure and presence of other microorganisms in filter media and top surface sediment. Soil samples were taken from two different biofilters to investigate E. coli survival under controlled laboratory conditions. Results revealed that the presence of other microorganisms and temperature are vital stressors which govern the survival of E. coli captured either in the top surface sediment or filter media, while sunlight exposure and moisture content are important for the survival of E. coli captured in the top surface sediment compared to that of the filter media. Moreover, increased survival was found in the filter media compared to the top sediment, and sand filter media was found be more hostile than loamy sand filter media towards E. coli survival. Results also suggest that the contribution from the tested environmental stressors on E. coli survival in biofilters will be greatly affected by the seasonality and may vary from one site to another.

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The authors wish to acknowledge the support of Vipin Mehetha, Peter Anthony Koletolo, Catherine Osborne, Christelle Schang and Monash Water for Liveability at Monash University.

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Correspondence to G. I. Chandrasena.

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Responsible editor: Robert Duran

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Chandrasena, G.I., Deletic, A. & McCarthy, D.T. Survival of Escherichia coli in stormwater biofilters. Environ Sci Pollut Res 21, 5391–5401 (2014).

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