Membrane filtration was investigated at field scale in order to assess its effectiveness for reusing municipal effluents in agriculture. The study was started on April 2002 and ended on September 2007, as part of a national R&D project (AQUATEC). Preliminary results, which we already reported elsewhere, concerned the first two project years while this paper refers to the subsequent period. Three different crops (processing tomato, fennel and lettuce) were grown in rotation at a test field located in Apulia (Southern Italy) and irrigated with membrane filtered municipal secondary effluents. The quality of the reclaimed water was monitored chemically and microbiologically, and compared with conventional water pumped from a local well. Both water sources were used in parallel for irrigating two plots of the test field. The results showed that the microbiological quality of the treated wastewater was comparable to or even higher than that of the conventional source. Protozoan (oo)cysts were experimentally identified as effective indicators of possible failures of the filtration system. Moreover, long term heavy metals accumulation trends were monitored in soil and crops, showing that despite some lead and copper accumulation in the soil, no measurable increase of these metals was observed in the edible parts of the crops.
Keywords: membrane filtration, reclamation process, wastewater reuse, water demand management