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Assessment of the methodologies used in microbiological control of sewage sludge

López, A., Baguer, B., Goñi, P., Rubio, E., Gómez, J., Mosteo, R., Ormad, M.P.
Waste management 2019 v.96 pp. 168-174
Enterococcus faecium, Escherichia coli, Protozoa, agricultural land, algae, bacteria, environmental health, heavy metals, helminths, humans, laws and regulations, microbial load, microbiological quality, microfiltration, pathogens, plate count, pollutants, risk, sewage sludge, soil, viruses, waste management, Europe
Sewage sludge usually contains potentially polluting substances such as heavy metals, organic pollutants and various organisms including bacteria, protozoa, helminths, viruses and algae, some of which may be pathogenic. Certain of these pathogens could be transferred to the soil if the sludge is used on agricultural or land recovery applications. For its application on agricultural land, sewage sludge must comply with the limits established in the legislation, which in Europe does not include quality standards regarding microbiological parameters. Nevertheless, the presence of pathogens could limit its agricultural use, as it could pose a risk to human, animal and environmental health. This study compares 4 different methodologies used in microbiological analysis in order to identify the most efficient and reliable method on determining bacteria in sewage sludge. Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecium are used as bacterial indicators. The results obtained in this work indicate that results obtained with three different plate count methods cannot be comparable with those obtained with the MPN method. The membrane filtration method is recommended for its high precision and sensitivity, both in low and high bacterial loads. It is also concluded that it would be necessary to establish the quality standard in concordance with the method used.