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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Waste Management

Reduction of Pathogen Indicator Organisms in Dairy Wastewater Using an Ecological Treatment System


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 37 No. 1, p. 272-279
    Received: Mar 6, 2007

    * Corresponding author(s): morgan.559@osu.edu
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  1. Jennifer A. Morgan *a,
  2. Armando E. Hoetb,
  3. Thomas E. Wittumb,
  4. Clifton M. Monahanb and
  5. Jay F. Martinac
  1. a Environmental Science Graduate Program, The Ohio State Univ., 590 Woody Hayes Dr., Columbus, OH, 43210
    b Dep. Veterinary Preventative Medicine, The Ohio State Univ., 1920 Coffey Rd., Columbus, OH, 43210
    c Dep. Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State Univ., 590 Woody Hayes Dr., Columbus, OH, 43210


Ecological treatment systems can provide a sustainable, plant-based alternative to traditional wastewater treatment. One factor essential to the success of these systems is ensuring their ability to reduce coliform concentrations in wastewater. Wastewater is the primary source of fecal contamination in aquatic ecosystems, containing total and fecal coliforms on the order of 108–1010 and 107–109 CFU L−1, respectively. This study assessed the ability of an ecological treatment system to reduce concentrations of total coliforms and Escherichia coli from dairy wastewater. Low strength wastewater was pumped into the system during July of 2005 and high strength in September 2005. Wastewater passes through a series of anaerobic, aerobic, and clarifier reactors and wetland cells before exiting the system. Regardless of wastewater strength, average total coliform and E. coli concentrations were consistently reduced by at least 99% from influent to effluent, with the majority of the reduction (76%) occurring in the first two reactors. Relationships between internal concentrations of solids and coliforms indicated that increased reduction of solids may further reduce coliform concentrations. Although U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discharge requirements for E. coli were not always met, the substantial reductions achieved indicate that ecological treatment systems have the potential to successfully reduce coliforms in wastewater to meet discharge limits. The results from this study will be used to guide design and management of future ecological treatment systems, so that larger and more consistent coliform reductions can be achieved.

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