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Development of Disinfection-Resistant Bacteria During Wastewater Treatment

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The Williamsburg, Virginia, wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) has periodically experienced erratic disinfection and persistence of fecal coliform bacteria in the presence of apparently adequate levels of disinfectant in the effluent. Several reasons for disinfection problems were previously investigated. This paper describes the results of a study of two factors that could affect disinfection in this plant: (1) the potential for the development of disinfection-resistant fecal coliforms in the operation of this specific WWTP and (2) the nature of the wastewater matrix that this particular WWTP handles that could interfere with chlorine disinfection. The study suggested that the WWTP oxidation towers supported growth or recovery of fecal coliform bacteria. This bacterial subpopulation seemed to have increased resistance to routine chlorine disinfection. Inactivation rate constants calculated for periods between 15 and 45 minutes after chlorine addition were significantly lower for fecal coliforms originating from oxidation towers than for fecal coliforms from other sources. This is, to our knowledge, the first report of such conditions created by a treatment process. The study of the plant-specific matrix determined no statistically significant effects on disinfection.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1999-05-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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