Effect of the aeration system on the levels of airborne microorganisms generated at wastewater treatment plants

Water Res. 2008 Aug;42(14):3739-44. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2008.06.028. Epub 2008 Jul 9.


Six different wastewater treatment plants were monitored in order to identify the main bioaerosol sources and to evaluate the effect of the aeration system used in the biological treatment (air diffusion, horizontal rotors and surface turbine aerators) on the airborne microorganism levels to which workers may be exposed. Air samples were collected by using a single stage impactor. Total count of mesophilic bacteria was used as the monitoring parameter to compare the impact of the aeration system on generic bacterial bioaerosols rather than a quantitative estimation for pathogens or fecal indicator microbes. In this study, pre-treatment, biological treatment and sludge thickening were the processes that generated the highest amount of bioaerosols. Aeration systems involving mechanical agitation of the wastewater, such as horizontal rotors and surface turbines, generated a larger amount of bioaerosols (between 450 and 4580CFU/m(3)) than air diffuser aerators (between 22 and 57CFU/m(3)). The levels of airborne bacteria generated by air diffusers were very similar to those registered at the background locations (lower than 50CFU/m(3)), unaffected by the activities taking place in the wastewater treatment plant. The use of air diffusers as an aeration system for the biological treatment would significantly minimise the potential biological hazard that wastewater treatment plant workers may be exposed to.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Air Microbiology*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / instrumentation*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods*
  • Water Microbiology*


  • Aerosols