Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Some Thoughts on the E.coli Outbreak in Germany

I suppose the many hundreds of students who have attended my introductory lectures on wastewater treatment can attest to my call for the past thirty years for microbial standards to be placed on wastewater treatment plants, and in particular to focus more closely on pathogen removal during treatment.  Wastewater treatment plants, especially activated sludge reactors, are ideal places for new strains of bacteria and antibiotic resistance to develop.  Our simple barrier approach to pathogen control based largely on dilution of effluents and the disinfection of drinking water has served us well, but the reuse of wastewater effluents, contaminated surface and ground waters are all direct routes to the food chain.  While the source of the current outbreak of E. coli  in Germany remains unknown, we should not rule out the very high possibility of such a link.  The need for better operational management coupled with final effluent disinfection to deal with pathogen release from treatment plants must be put on the agenda for a revised Urban Wastewater Directive, where emphasis is placed equally on both environmental and public health protection. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Haiti Cholera Outbreak Continues but Origin Sourced

Cholera is still dominating the lives of those living in Haiti.  Since the original post on the 22nd October 2010, some 5,000 people have died and 300,000 have become ill.  A recent report has linked the original outbreak to a poorly constructed wastewater treatment system that was built to serve UN troops from Nepal that were based at a rural camp close to the Meye River.  The basic septic tanks leaked into this river which is a tributary of the country’s main river, the Artibonite, which runs through the central region of Haiti, and the major source of water for many tens of thousands of rural Haitians.  However, the lack of suitable  water and sanitation, which has still not been restored since the earthquake, is also a major factor for the continuation of this epidemic.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dublin Faces Possible Water Shortages

Dublin City Council have issued advanced notice that their reservoirs in the Wicklow mountains are rapidly falling due to a very dry March and April resulting. With little or no water replenishing stocks reserves now stand at 120 days, rather than the usual 178 days normally expected at this time of year. This means that if dry weather continues then restrictions will have to be implemented both in the City and throughout the Greater Dublin area. The cut off point is 80days storage at which restrictions will be put into place. Consumers are asked to conserve supplies, especially in relation to using water for the garden and washing vehicles etc.