Municipal Treated Wastewater Irrigation: Microbiological Risk Evaluation

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Pietro Rubino *
Antonio Lonigro
(*) Corresponding Author:
Pietro Rubino |


Municipal wastewater for irrigation, though treated, can contain substances and pathogens toxic for humans and animals. Pathogens, although not harmful from an agronomical aspect, undoubtedly represent a major concern with regards to sanitary and hygienic profile. In fact, vegetable crops irrigated with treated wastewater exalt the risk of infection since these products can also be eaten raw, as well as transformed or cooked. Practically, the evaluation of the microbiological risk is important to verify if the microbial limits imposed by law for treated municipal wastewater for irrigation, are valid, thus justifying the treatments costs, or if they are too low and, therefore, they don’ t justify them. Different probabilistic models have been studied to assess the microbiological risk; among these, the Beta-Poisson model resulted the most reliable. Thus, the Dipartimento di Scienze delle Produzioni Vegetali of the University of Bari, which has been carrying out researches on irrigation with municipal filtered wastewater for several years, considered interesting to verify if the microbial limits imposed by the italian law n.185/03 are too severe, estimating the biological risk by the probabilistic Beta-Poisson model. Results of field trials on vegetable crops irrigated by municipal filtered wastewater, processed by the Beta-Poisson model, show that the probability to get infection and/or illness is extremely low, and that the actual italian microbial limits are excessively restrictive.

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