Processes for Managing Pathogens
Alan Godfree and Joseph Farrell
Wastewater contains human, animal, and plant pathogens capable of causing viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections. There are several routes whereby sewage pathogens may affect human health, including direct contact, contamination of food crops, zoonoses, and vectors. The range and numbers of pathogens in municipal wastewater vary with the level of endemic disease in the community, discharges from commercial activities, and seasonal factors. Regulations to control pathogen risk in the United States and Europe arising from land application of biosolids are based on the concept of multiple barriers to the prevention of transmission. The barriers are (i) treatment to reduce pathogen content and vector attraction, (ii) restrictions on crops grown on land to which biosolids have been applied, and (iii) minimum intervals following application and grazing or harvesting. Wastewater treatment reduces number of pathogens in the wastewater by concentrating them with the solids in the sludge. Although some treatment processes are designed specifically to inactivate pathogens, many are not, and the actual mechanisms of microbial inactivation are not fully understood for all processes. Vector attraction is reduced by stabilization (reduction of readily biodegradable material) and/or incorporation immediately following application. Concerns about health risks have renewed interest in the effects of treatment (on pathogens) and advanced treatment methods, and work performed in the United States suggests that Class A pathogen reduction can be achieved less expensively than previously thought. Effective pathogen risk management requires control to the complete chain of sludge treatment, biosolids handling and application, and post-application activities. This may be achieved by adherence to quality management systems based on hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) principles.
Abbreviations: CCP, critical control point • HACCP, hazard analysis critical control point • MAD, mesophilic anaerobic digestion • STEC, shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli
Source: J. Environ. Qual. 34:105-113 (2005).