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Characterization of Paper Mill Effluent Using Indicators and Source Tracking Methods (PDF)

  • Author(s): Long, Sharon C.; Stietz, Jamie R.; Olstadt, Jeremy; Hedman, Curtis J.; Plummer, Jeanine D.
  • Publications: Journal - American Water Works Association
  • Issue Date: March 2012
  • Volume / Number: 104, Number 3
  • Page(s): E150-E161
  • DOI:
  • Product Number: JAW_0075567
Full Text: pdf
Expanded Summary: pdf

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Monitoring of indicator organisms is conducted to assess potential risk of pathogen exposure from freshwaters such as recreational waters and drinking water sources. Total coliforms, fecal coliforms, E. coli and enterococci are the most commonly measured indicator organisms. Their presence can indicate the potential presence of fecally transmitted pathogens. In Wisconsin, E. coli are used for determining potential human health risk in recreational waters. However, it has been shown that E. coli can survive and reproduce in a variety of aquatic environments, including in the activated sludge process of paper mills. Previous monitoring in a river in Wisconsin receiving paper mill effluent indicated that the mill was contributing to elevated E. coli levels that could affect the number of closings at a public beach located downstream from the mill. The goal of this study was to understand the public health implications of the E. coli at the beach. Samples were collected upstream and downstream of the paper mill's wastewater treatment plant discharge as well as within the mill processes. Samples were analyzed for indicator organisms (coliforms, E. coli, and enterococci) and microbial source tracking (MST) targets. Although indicator concentrations were typically below detection limits in the mill process water, indicators regrew in the activated sludge wastewater treatment process such that fecal coliforms and E. coli were detected in all wastewater treatment plant effluent samples. Although the paper mill effluent periodically appears to affect the E. coli levels at the downstream beach, MST results demonstrate that E. coli from the mill is not of human fecal origin, and therefore not likely a cause for health concerns.

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