IWA Publishing

Impact of cemeteries on groundwater contamination by bacteria and viruses – a review

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In the process of decomposition of a human body, 0.4–0.6 litres of leachate is produced per 1 kg of body weight. The leachate contains pathogenic bacteria and viruses that may contaminate the groundwater and cause disease when it is used for drinking. So far, this topic has been investigated in several regions of the world (mainly Brazil, Australia, the Republic of South Africa, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Poland). However, recently more and more attention has been focused on this issue. This study reviews the results of investigations related to the impact of cemeteries on groundwater bacteriology and virology. This topic was mainly discussed in the context of the quantities and qualities of changes in types of microorganisms causing groundwater contamination. In some cases, these changes were related to the environmental setting of a place, where a cemetery was located. The review is completed by a list of recommendations. Their implementation aims to protect the local environment, employees of funeral homes and the residents living in the vicinity of cemeteries. In this form, this review aims to familiarize the reader with the results of this topic, and provide practical guidance for decision-makers in the context of expansion and management of cemeteries, as well as the location of new ones.

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