Two-stage vertical flow multi-soil-layering (MSL) technology for efficient removal of coliforms and human pathogens from domestic wastewater in rural areas under arid climate

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2018 Jan;221(1):64-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2017.10.004. Epub 2017 Oct 13.


This paper investigates the removal efficiency of organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus, coliforms and pathogens from rural domestic wastewater in a two-stage vertical flow multi-soil-layering (MSL) system. The effects of wastewater quality, season and arid climate conditions on pollutants removal efficiency by the system were examined for one year. The experimental setup included two similar MSL systems composed of two layers: soil-mixture-layers (SML) and gravel permeable layers (PL) that are arranged in a brick like pattern. The applied hydraulic loading rate was 1000Lm-2day-1. Results showed that most of the physicochemical contaminants elimination occurred while the wastewater percolated through the first MSL stage. The second stage demonstrated an improvement in the reduction of all pollutants, especially fecal bacteria indicators and pathogens. The mean overall removal rates performed by the two-stage MSL system were 97% for TSS, 96% for BOD5, 91% for COD, 96% for TN and 95% for TP. For bacterial indicators, the combination of two-stage MSL system achieved high log removals between 2.21 and 3.15 log units. Contaminants reduction processes in MSL technology are more dependent on internal than external environmental factors. The effectiveness of the two-stage MSL system to treat domestic wastewater was strongly influenced by wastewater quality. Significant relationships between influent contaminants level and their removal efficiency were found. The efficiency of MSL technology to reduce contaminants is not sensitive to season and air temperature fluctuations. This is due to the capacity of MSL system materials to withstand the air temperature variation, which highlights one of the advantages of MSL's technology. Wastewater quality is the most important factor affecting the removal of contaminants in the MSL, which could be a critical parameter to considered when designing MSL system. Two-stage MSL system achieved a high treated wastewater quality amenable for treated wastewater reuse in agriculture recommended by Moroccan code of practice. Therefore, the combination of two-stage vertical flow MSL system could be considered an efficient and promising domestic wastewater treatment solution in arid countries to promote environmental protection and wastewater reuse.

Keywords: Fecal bacteria; Nutrients; Organic matter; Pathogens; Rural domestic wastewater; Two-stage vertical flow multi-soil-layering system.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Enterobacteriaceae / isolation & purification*
  • Rural Population
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Purification / methods*
  • Water Quality