The wastewater infrastructure in Switzerland is worth 125 billion Swiss francs. Nine hundred treatment plants clean the country’s wastewater around the clock. Part of the work of Eawag is to examine how this success story can be continuously optimised and tailored to suit the particular conditions in other countries, as well as to look at how to overcome new challenges
May 5, 2022Eawag researchers Sabine Hoffmann, Kai Udert and Lisa Deutsch are committed to a sanitation and nutrient transformation. They use an example to explain why a transformation is needed and why collaboration with politicians in particular is a challenge.
May 4, 2022What has been a purification process in wastewater treatment plants for decades can also be used decentrally or semi-centrally as a recycling process for nutrients. Early separation of "solid and liquid" plays a key role here. It allows for flexible solutions in terms of process technology, especially in the treatment of urine. New studies also show that the processes can be used not only for human urine, but also for that of cows or pigs.
Microeukaryotic gut parasites in wastewater treatment plants: diversity, activity, and removal
Background: During wastewater treatment, the wastewater microbiome facilitates the degradation of organic matter, reduction of nutrients, and removal of gut parasites. While the latter function is essential to minimize public health risks, the range of parasites involved and how they are removed is still poorly understood. Results: Using shotgun metagenomic (DNA) and metatranscriptomic (RNA) sequencing data from ten wastewater treatment plants in Switzerland, we were able to assess the entire wastewater microbiome, including the often neglected microeukaryotes (protists). In the latter group, we found a surprising richness and relative abundance of active parasites, particularly in the inflow. Using network analysis, we tracked these taxa across the various treatment compartments and linked their removal to trophic interactions. Conclusions: Our results indicate that the combination of DNA and RNA data is essential for assessing the full spectrum of taxa present in wastewater. In particular, we shed light on an important but poorly understood function of wastewater treatment - parasite removal.
Impact of nitrate addition on the resistome and mobilome from a full-scale sewer
Oxidative chemicals, such as nitrate, are periodically added to sewer systems to mitigate sulfide production and its accumulation but data are lacking on how these treatments affect sewage microbiota and alter their gene expression and mobilization. The present study investigated such effects on the biofilm of a full-scale sewer collected at two different locations, namely a pumping station and at the inlet of an urban wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), before and 15 days after nitrate dosage using a combination of culture-dependent and -independent approaches. Nitrate dosing resulted ineffective on the concentration of antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli (AR-EC) in biofilms but greatly affected the composition of biofilm bacterial communities and the associated resistome and mobilome, especially at the pumping station where nitrate was dosed. Such responses consisted of a clear reduction on strict anaerobes; an almost twofold increase on the expression of recA gene (stress-response marker); and a significant increase on the relative abundance of most antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) and mobile genetic elements (MGEs). In turn, the effects of nitrate dosing at the WWTP inlet were barely visible, suggesting that they vanished into the distance from the pumping site (2.4 km). Remarkably, however, the relative abundance of both resistance and mobilization gene biomarkers at the inlet of the studied WWTP clearly oversized that at the pumping station confirming that these facilities are sinks where these resistance determinants accumulate and propagate. Considering the abundance of resistant bacteria and genes in urban sewage, the effects of dosing chemicals should be carefully assessed to lessen the load of such biological pollutants into WWTPs.
Gionchetta, G.; Fillol, M.; López, N.; Kassotaki, E.; Sànchez-Melsió, A.; Gutiérrez, C.; Gutiérrez, O.; Balcázar, J. L.; Borrego, C. M. (2022) Impact of nitrate addition on the resistome and mobilome from a full-scale sewer, Chemical Engineering Journal, 439, 135653, doi:10.1016/j.cej.2022.135653, Institutional Repository
A simplified sanitary sewer system generator for exploratory modelling at city-scale
Future climatic, demographic, technological, urban and socio-economic challenges call for more flexible and sustainable wastewater infrastructure systems. Exploratory modelling can help to investigate the consequences of these developments on the infrastructure. In order to explore large numbers of adaptation strategies, we need to re-balance the degree of realism of sewer network and ability to reflect key performance characteristics against the model's parsimony and computational efficiency. We present a spatially explicit algorithm for creating sanitary sewer networks that realistically represent key characteristics of a real system. Basic topographic, demographic and urban characteristics are abstracted into a squared grid of 'Blocks' which are the foundation for the sewer network's topology delineation. We compare three different pipe dimensioning approaches and found a good balance between detail and computational efficiency. With a basic hydraulic performance assessment, we demonstrate that we attain a computationally efficient and high-fidelity wastewater sewer network with adequate hydraulic performance. A spatial resolution of 250 m Block size in combination with a sequential Pipe-by-Pipe (PBP) design algorithm provides a sound trade-off between computational time and fidelity of relevant structural and hydraulic properties for exploratory modelling. We can generate a simplified sewer network (both topology and hydraulic design) in 18 s using PBP, versus 36 min using a highly detailed model or 1 s using a highly abstract model. Moreover, this simplification can cut up to 1/10th to 1/50th the computational time for the hydraulic simulations depending on the routing method implemented. We anticipate our model to be a starting point for sophisticated exploratory modelling into possible infrastructure adaptation measures of topological and loading changes of sewer systems for long-term planning.
Evaluation of a full-scale wastewater treatment plant with ozonation and different post-treatments using a broad range of in vitro and in vivo bioassays
Micropollutants present in the effluent of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) after biological treatment are largely eliminated by effective advanced technologies such as ozonation. Discharge of contaminants into freshwater ecosystems can thus be minimized, while simultaneously protecting drinking water resources. However, ozonation can lead to reactive and potentially toxic transformation products. To remove these, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment recommends additional "post-treatment" of ozonated WWTP effluent using sand filtration, but other treatments may be similarly effective. In this study, 48 h composite wastewater samples were collected before and after full-scale ozonation, and after post-treatments (full-scale sand filtration, pilot-scale fresh and pre-loaded granular activated carbon, and fixed and moving beds). Ecotoxicological tests were performed to quantify the changes in water quality following different treatment steps. These included standard in vitro bioassays for the detection of endocrine, genotoxic and mutagenic effects, as well as toxicity to green algae and bacteria, and flow-through in vivo bioassays using oligochaetes and early life stages of rainbow trout. Results show that ozonation reduced a number of ecotoxicological effects of biologically treated wastewater by 66 - 93%: It improved growth and photosynthesis of green algae, decreased toxicity to luminescent bacteria, reduced concentrations of hormonally active contaminants and significantly changed expression of biomarker genes in rainbow trout liver. Bioassay results showed that ozonation did not produce problematic levels of reaction products overall. Small increases in toxicity observed in a few samples were reduced or eliminated by post-treatments. However, only relatively fresh granular activated carbon (analyzed at 13,000 - 20,000 bed volumes) significantly reduced effects additionally (by up to 66%) compared to ozonation alone. Inhibition of algal photosynthesis, rainbow trout liver histopathology and biomarker gene expression proved to be sufficiently sensitive endpoints to detect the change in water quality achieved by post-treatment.
Kienle, C.; Werner, I.; Fischer, S.; Lüthi, C.; Schifferli, A.; Besselink, H.; Langer, M.; McArdell, C. S.; Vermeirssen, E. L. M. (2022) Evaluation of a full-scale wastewater treatment plant with ozonation and different post-treatments using a broad range of in vitro and in vivo bioassays, Water Research, 212, 118084 (13 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.watres.2022.118084, Institutional Repository
Application of Wastewater-based Epidemiology to SARS-CoV-2 Detection
Communities across the world face water supply challenges due to increasing demand, drought, groundwater depletion and contamination, dependence on single sources of supply, and ageing infrastructure
An inter- and transdisciplinary strategic research program that strives to develop novel non-gridconnected water and sani- tation systems that can function as comparable alternatives to network-based systems.
Eawag has a long history of developing innovative processes for separating wastewater at source. These technologies include one whereby urine is separated out using the NoMix Toilet.
We study the ecological stability of anammox biofilms, which are responsible for the autotrophic Nitrogen removal in mixed nitritation-anammox systems.
Sustainable urban water and wastewater management applied and implemented in the modular NEST building.
Greenhouse gas emissions from wastewater treatment
By recovering nutrients from urine, we develop a sanitation system, which produces a valuable fertiliser
Solid-Liquid Separation of Faecal Sludge: Understanding Governing Mechanisms for Improved Global Sanitation
The aim of CWIS research is to develop a method that synthesizes existing information about the sanitation landscapes of cities in India and that presents comprehensive sanitation solutions.
Cover picture: At the Zurich Werdhölzli plant, Eawag researchers Christoph Ort, Pravin Ganesanandamoorthy und Anina Kull collect samples which will be tested in the laboratory for SARS-CoV-2. (Photo: Esther Michel)