Log removals of bacterial indicators, coliphage, and enteric viruses were studied in three membrane bioreactor (MBR) activated-sludge and two conventional secondary activated-sludge municipal wastewater treatment plants during three recreational seasons (May-Oct.) when disinfection of effluents is required. In total, 73 regular samples were collected from key locations throughout treatment processes: post-preliminary, post-MBR, post-secondary, post-tertiary, and post-disinfection (UV or chlorine). Out of 19 post-preliminary samples, adenovirus by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was detected in all 19, enterovirus by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) was detected in 15, and norovirus GI by qRT-PCR was detected in 11. Norovirus GII and Hepatitis A virus were not detected in any samples, and rotavirus was detected in one sample but could not be quantified. Although culturable viruses were found in 12 out of 19 post-preliminary samples, they were not detected in any post-secondary, post-MBR, post-ultraviolet, or post-chlorine samples. Median log removals for all organisms were higher for MBR secondary treatment (3.02 to >6.73) than for conventional secondary (1.53-4.19) treatment. Ultraviolet disinfection after MBR treatment provided little additional log removal of any organism except for somatic coliphage (>2.18), whereas ultraviolet or chlorine disinfection after conventional secondary treatment provided significant log removals (above the analytical variability) of all bacterial indicators (1.18-3.89) and somatic and F-specific coliphage (0.71 and >2.98). Median log removals of adenovirus across disinfection were low in both MBR and conventional secondary plants (no removal detected and 0.24), and few removals of individual samples were near or above the analytical variability of 1.2 log genomic copies per liter. Based on qualitative examinations of plots showing reductions of organisms throughout treatment processes, somatic coliphage may best represent the removal of viruses across secondary treatment in both MBR and conventional secondary plants. F-specific coliphage and Escherichia coli may best represent the removal of viruses across the disinfection process in MBR facilities, but none of the indicators represented the removal of viruses across disinfection in conventional secondary plants.
Additional publication details
Comparative effectiveness of membrane bioreactors, conventional secondary treatment, and chlorine and UV disinfection to remove microorganisms from municipal wastewaters