Long-term survival of Escherichia coli in lightweight aggregate filter media of constructed wastewater treatment wetlands

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

A laboratory scale experiment on the survival of Escherichia coli in samples of filter media from a horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetland treating domestic wastewater was performed. A concentration of E. coli was examined in samples collected from a wetland filter filled with lightweight aggregates (LWA). All samples testing positive for E. coli contamination were used to examine the effect of storage time on the survival of E. coli at three temperature regimes: cold (4°C), mild (10°C) and warm (22°C). It was found that the mild storage condition favoured the growth and survival of E. coli in the tested LWA media. The growth in samples of the uppermost layer of the media lasted for 5.5 months, during which E. coli reached a maximum concentration of 6.4 × 103 MPN/100 g dry matter in the media. It was also observed that E. coli had a greater capacity to survive for extended periods of time in samples collected from the upper layer of the LWA filter compared to samples taken from the deeper layers. The survival of E. coli in the shallowest samples of the wetland filter was remarkably long and unexpected, lasting for a period of over 14 months.

Keywords: constructed wetland, Escherichia coli, filter media, lightweight aggregates, survival

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