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Evaluation of Primary and Secondary Treated and Disinfected Wastewater Irrigation of Tomato and Cucumber Plants Under Greenhouse Conditions, Regarding Growth and Safety Considerations

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Tomato and cucumber seedlings were distributed into 10 groups (five for each plant) of 15 plants each. The plants were irrigated for 10 weeks with primary treated wastewater (group A), secondary treated wastewater (group B), chlorinated secondary treated wastewater (group C), a fertilizer dilution (group F), and tap water (group M). All precautions were taken to secure that there was no direct contact between the wastewater and the edible portions of the crops. During this period and on a weekly basis, the height and number of leaves was monitored, while, at the end, the dry weight of leaves, stems, and roots for each plant of each group was measured. Based on these growth parameters, both types of plant in groups A and F recorded the most significant development compared to the other three groups. The plants irrigated with tap water recorded the smallest development, in every case. Plants in groups B and C were similar, with a slight (but not significant) superiority for the plants irrigated with secondary treated wastewater, probably as a result of some phytotoxic effects of residual chloride in the chlorinated wastewater. The presence of nutrients and specifically nitrogen in the various solutions explains the differences satisfactorily. The vegetables grown on the plants of each group were harvested, and their surface tissue analyzed for total coliforms (TC) and enterococci (EC). Tomatoes grown on the plants of groups A and B recorded the highest values for TC, with 505 and 490 cfu/g, respectively, whereas, for cucumbers, those values were 342 and 450 cfu/g, respectively. Enterococci were detected on the surface of harvested vegetables from groups A and B, but the small number of cases and their random character cannot support any strong relations between the used wastewater and their presence. The TC values in group C were very low, far lower than those if group F. No EC were found in either group C or group F. These primary results suggested that irrigation with appropriate disinfected wastewater, even of such high-risk cultivations of vegetables eaten raw, should not be discarded completely as unsafe, but be reconsidered and studied further. However, the use of undisinfected wastewater in such greenhouse cultivations, where all safety precautions have been taken to prevent any contact of the fruits with the soil or the wastewater, does not prove to be 100% safe.
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Keywords: coliforms; cucumber; enterococci; irrigation; reuse; safety; tomato; wastewater

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-08-01

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    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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