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Recurrence of Fecal Coliforms and Salmonella Species in Biosolids Following Thermophilic Anaerobic Digestion

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Part 503 Biosolids Rule requires the fecal coliform (indicator) or Salmonella species (pathogen) density requirements for Class A biosolids to be met at the last point of plant control (truck-loading facility and/or farm for land application). The three Southern Californian wastewater treatment plants in this study produced biosolids by thermophilic anaerobic digestion and all met the Class A limits for both fecal coliforms and Salmonella sp. in the digester outflow biosolids. At two plants, however, a recurrence of fecal coliforms was observed in postdigestion biosolids, which caused exceedance of the Class A limit for fecal coliforms at the truck-loading facility and farm for land application. Comparison of observations at the three plants and further laboratory tests indicated that the recurrence of fecal coliforms can possibly be related to the following combination of factors: (1) incomplete destruction of fecal coliforms during thermophilic anaerobic digestion, (2) contamination of Class A biosolids with fecal coliforms from external sources during postdigestion, (3) a large drop of the postdigestion biosolids temperature to below the maximum for fecal coliform growth, (4) an unknown effect of biosolids dewatering in centrifuges. At Hyperion Treatment Plant (City of Los Angeles, California), fecal coliform recurrence could be prevented by the following: (1) complete conversion to thermophilic operation to exclude contamination by mesophilically digested biosolids and (2) insulation and electrical heat-tracing of postdigestion train for maintaining a high biosolids temperature in postdigestion.
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Keywords: 40 CFR Part 503; Class A biosolids; fecal coliforms; postdigestion processing; reactivation and growth; thermophilic anaerobic digestion

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-09-01

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