Bacteria transport in a soil-based wastewater treatment system under simulated operational and climate change conditions

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Bacteria removal efficiencies in a conventional soil-based wastewater treatment system (OWTS) have been modeled to elucidate the fate and transport of E. coli bacteria under environmental and operational conditions that might be expected under changing climatic conditions. The HYDRUS 2D/3D software was used to model the impact of changing precipitation patterns, bacteria concentrations, hydraulic loading rates (HLRs), and higher subsurface temperatures at different depths and soil textures. Modeled effects of bacteria concentration shows that greater depth of treatment was required in coarser soils than in fine-textured ones to remove E. coli. The initial removal percentage was higher when HLR was lower, but it was greater when HLR was higher. When a biomat layer was included in the transport model, the performance of the system improved by up to 12.0%. Lower bacteria removal (<5%) was observed at all depths under the influence of precipitation rates ranging from 5 to 35 cm, and 35-cm rainfall combined with a 70% increase in HLR. Increased subsurface temperature (23°C) increased bacteria removal relative to a lower temperature range (5-20°C). Our results show that the model is able to effectively simulate bacteria removal and the effect of precipitation and temperature in different soil textures. It appears that the performance of OWTS may be impacted by changing climate.

Publication Title

Journal of Environmental Quality