M. Harb, P.-Y. Hong
Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp. 5370-5380, (2017)
Although membrane bioreactor (MBR) systems provide better removal of pathogens compared to conventional activated sludge processes, they do not achieve total log removal. The present study examines two MBR systems treating municipal wastewater, one a full-scale MBR plant and the other a lab-scale anaerobic MBR. Both of these systems were operated using microfiltration (MF) polymeric membranes. High-throughput sequencing and digital PCR quantification were utilized to monitor the log removal values (LRVs) of associated pathogenic species and their abundance in the MBR effluents. Results showed that specific removal rates vary widely regardless of the system employed. Each of the two MBR effluents’ microbial communities contained genera associated with opportunistic pathogens (e.g., Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter) with a wide range of log reduction values (< 2 to >5.5). Digital PCR further confirmed that these bacterial groups included pathogenic species, in several instances at LRVs different than those for their respective genera. These results were used to evaluate the potential risks associated both with the reuse of the MBR effluents for irrigation purposes and with land application of the activated sludge from the full-scale MBR system.