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Survival of Total Coliforms in Lawn Irrigated with Secondary Wastewater and Chlorinated Effluent in the Mediterranean Region

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Pregrown, two-month-old lawn was layered in 12 large square pots with an area of 0.25 m 2 each, filled with a mixture of topsoil, peat, and sand. In late July, in the heart of the Mediterranean summer, the pots were divided into two groups, with six pots per group. On four different occasions, the pots in each group were sprinkled (surface irrigation) with 2 L of either secondary-treated wastewater (STW, group A) or chlorinated effluent (CHE, group B). Wastewater application always took place at 0700 hours. Samples of the surface soil and grass from each pot were collected at the following times: before irrigation, immediately after irrigation, two hours later (0900 hours), and four hours later (1100 hours). In the samples collected, the number of total coliforms per gram was measured using standard microbiological analyses. Temperature and sunlight intensity were also monitored. There was an increase in the coliforms population in soil and grass samples of both groups immediately after the wastewater application. In group A, the mean number of coliforms recorded in the soil samples reached mean values higher than 5000 cfu/g compared to 312 cfu/g recorded before application. The increase in group B was smaller but still significant. Two hours later, the number of coliforms was reduced substantially in all samples (e.g., group A, soil samples 477 cfu/g). Coliform inactivation is thought to result from the effect of temperature and mainly sunlight. However, four hours after application (1100 hours), there was a noticeable increase in the coliform number again, in all sample categories of both groups. Coliform reactivation could be a result of shadowing effect resulting from the thick foliage of the grass, where the microorganisms were protected by the sunlight radiation and regrowth in a friendly environment (especially of the soil) where moisture and nutrients were present. This, in addition to the fact that coliforms seemed to retain a sizable population between applications, results in three conclusions: (1) coliforms can survive in grass and soil for a substantial period of time, recovering from the destructive effect of chlorination, (2) use of STW, even during the Mediterranean summer, could result in a substantial “contamination” of lawns, without any proof that sun and temperature can reduce the coliform number, and (3) intense sunlight (up to 68 000 lux) was far more effective in coliform suppression than elevated temperature (up to 38°C).
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Keywords: coliforms; inactivation; lawn; reuse; sunlight; temperature; wastewater

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-03-01

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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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