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Concept: Septic tank


The lack of a patent source of infection after 24 hours of management of shock considered septic is a common and disturbing scenario. We aimed to determine the prevalence and the causes of shock with no diagnosis 24 hours after its onset, and to compare the outcomes of patients with early-confirmed septic shock to those of others.

Concepts: Cohort study, Longitudinal study, Septic shock, Septic tank


Linking fecal indicator bacteria concentrations in large mixed-use watersheds back to diffuse human sources, such as septic systems, has met limited success. In this study, 64 rivers that drain 84% of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula were sampled under baseflow conditions for Escherichia coli, Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron (a human source-tracking marker), landscape characteristics, and geochemical and hydrologic variables. E. coli and B. thetaiotaomicron were routinely detected in sampled rivers and an E. coli reference level was defined (1.4 log10 most probable number⋅100 mL(-1)). Using classification and regression tree analysis and demographic estimates of wastewater treatments per watershed, septic systems seem to be the primary driver of fecal bacteria levels. In particular, watersheds with more than 1,621 septic systems exhibited significantly higher concentrations of B. thetaiotaomicron. This information is vital for evaluating water quality and health implications, determining the impacts of septic systems on watersheds, and improving management decisions for locating, constructing, and maintaining on-site wastewater treatment systems.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Escherichia coli, Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Environmental engineering, Septic tank


Onsite wastewater systems, or septic tanks, serve approximately 25% of the United States population; they are therefore a critical component of the total carbon balance for natural water bodies. Septic tanks operate under strictly anaerobic conditions, and fermentation is the dominant process driving carbon transformation. Nitrate, Fe(III), and sulfate reduction may be operating to a limited extent in any given septic tank. Electron acceptor amendments will increase carbon oxidation, but nitrate is toxic and sulfate generates corrosive sulfides, which may damage septic system infrastructure. Fe(III) reducing microorganisms transform all major classes of organic carbon that are dominant in septic wastewater: low molecular weight organic acids, carbohydrate monomers and polymers, and lipids. Fe(III) is not toxic, and the reduction product Fe(II) is minimally disruptive if the starting Fe(III) is added at 50-150mgL(-1). We used (14)C radiolabeled acetate, lactate, propionate, butyrate, glucose, starch, and oleic acid to demonstrate that short and long-term carbon oxidation is increased when different forms of Fe(III) are amended to septic wastewater. The rates of carbon mineralization to (14)CO(2) increased 2-5times (relative to unamended systems) in the presence of Fe(III). The extent of mineralization reached 90% for some carbon compounds when Fe(III) was present, compared to levels of 50-60% in the absence of Fe(III). (14)CH(4) was not generated when Fe(III) was added, demonstrating that this strategy can limit methane emissions from septic systems. Amplified 16S rDNA restriction analysis indicated that unique Fe(III)-reducing microbial communities increased significantly in Fe(III)-amended incubations, with Fe(III)-reducers becoming the dominant microbial community in several incubations. The form of Fe(III) added had a significant impact on the rate and extent of mineralization; ferrihydrite and lepidocrocite were favored as solid phase Fe(III) and chelated Fe(III) (with nitrilotriacetic acid or EDTA) as soluble Fe(III) forms.

Concepts: Redox, Soil, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Nitrate, Septic tank, Imhoff tank, Septic drain field


Water shortages and the drive to recycle is increasing interest in reuse of reclaimed wastewater. Timely and cost-effective ways to detect fecal pollutants prior to reuse increases confidence of residents and neighbors concerned about reuse of reclaimed wastewater. The on-site wastewater treatment and reuse systems (OWTRS) used in this study include a septic tank, peat bioreactor, ClO(2) disinfection and land spray irrigation system. Bacteroides fragilis, Escherichiacoli and Enterococcus spp., were tested with immunomagnetic separation/ATP bioluminescence (IMS/ATP), qPCR and culture-based methods. The results displayed a 2-log reduction in fecal bacteria in the peat bioreactor and a 5-log reduction following chloride dioxide disinfection. The fecal bacteria levels measured by IMS/ATP correlated with qPCR results: HuBac 16S (R(2) = 0.903), Bf-group 16S (R(2) = 0.956), gyrB (R(2) = 0.673), and Ent 23S (R(2) = 0.724). This is the first study in which the newly developed human-specific IMS/ATP and previously developed IMS/ATP were applied for determining OWTRS efficiency. Results of the study revealed that IMS/ATP is a timely and cost-effective way to detect fecal contaminants, and results were validated with qPCR and culture based methods. The new IMS/ATP can also be applied broadly in the detection of human-originated fecal contamination.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Denitrification, Reclaimed water, Septic tank, Greywater


Phenoxyacetic and benzoic acid herbicides are widely used agricultural, commercial, and domestic pesticides. As a result of high water solubility, mobility, and persistence, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), methylchlorophenoxypropionic acid (mecoprop), and 3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid (dicamba) have been detected in surface and waste waters across Canada. As current municipal wastewater treatment plants do not specifically address chronic, trace levels of contaminants like pesticides, an urgent need exists for an efficient, environmentally friendly means of breaking down these toxic herbicides. A commercially available herbicide mix, WeedEx, containing 2,4-D, mecoprop, and dicamba, was subjected to treatment using membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology. The three herbicides, in simulated wastewater with a chemical oxygen demand of 745 mg/L, were introduced to the MBR at concentrations ranging from 300 μg/L to 3.5 mg/L. Herbicides and biodegradation products were extracted from MBR effluent using solid-phase extraction followed by detection using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. 2,4-D was reduced by more than 99.0 % within 12 days. Mecoprop and dicamba were more persistent and reduced by 69.0 and 75.4 %, respectively, after 112 days of treatment. Half-lives of 2,4-D, mecoprop and dicamba during the treatment were determined to be 1.9, 10.5, and 28.3 days, respectively. Important water quality parameters of the effluent such as dissolved oxygen, pH, ammonia, chemical oxygen demand, etc. were measured daily. MBR was demonstrated to be an environmentally friendly, compact, and efficient method for the treatment of toxic phenoxyacetic and benzoic acid herbicides.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Chromatography, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Chemical oxygen demand, Septic tank, Herbicides


Secondary treatment of municipal wastewater affects the mechanical stability of polymer Ca-alginate beads containing the microalgae Chlorella vulgaris that are jointly immobilized with Azospirillum brasilense as treating agents whose presence do not affect bead stability. Nine strains of potential alginate-degrading bacteria were isolated from wastewater and identified, based on their nearly complete 16S rDNA sequence. Still, their population was relatively low. Attempts to enhance the strength of the beads, using different concentrations of alginate and CaCl(2) or addition of either of three polymers (polyvinylpyrrolidone, polyvinyl alcohol, carboxymethylcellulose), CaCO(3), or SrCl(2), failed. Beads lost their mechanical strength after 24 h of incubation but not the integrity of their shape for at least 96 h, a fact that sustained successful tertiary wastewater treatment for 48 h. In small bioreactors, removal of phosphorus was low under sterile conditions but high in unsterile wastewater. Alginate beads did not absorb PO(4) (-3) in sterile wastewater, but in natural wastewater, they contained PO(4) (-3). Consequently, PO(4) (-3) content declined in the wastewater. A supplement of 10 % beads (w/v) was significantly more efficient in removing nutrients than 4 %, especially in a jointly immobilized treatment where >90 % of PO(4) (-3) and >50 % ammonium were removed. Tertiary wastewater treatment in 25-L triangular, airlift, autotrophic bioreactors showed, as in small bioreactors, very similar nutrient removal patterns, decline in bead strength phenomena, and increase in total bacteria during the wastewater treatment only in the presence of the immobilized treatment agents. This study demonstrates that partial biological degradation of alginate beads occurred during tertiary wastewater treatment, but the beads survive long enough to permit efficient nutrient removal.

Concepts: Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Aquatic ecology, Denitrification, Septic tank


Triclosan (TCS) is a multi-purpose antimicrobial agent used as a common ingredient in everyday household personal care and consumer products. The expanded use of TCS provides a number of pathways for the compound to enter the environment and it has been detected in sewage treatment plant effluents; surface; ground and drinking water. The physico-chemical properties indicate the bioaccumulation and persistence potential of TCS in the environment. Hence, there is an increasing concern about the presence of TCS in the environment and its potential negative effects on human and animal health. Nevertheless, scarce monitoring data could be one reason for not prioritizing TCS as emerging contaminant. Conventional water and wastewater treatment processes are unable to completely remove the TCS and even form toxic intermediates. Considering the worldwide application of personal care products containing TCS and inefficient removal and its toxic effects on aquatic organisms, the compound should be considered on the priority list of emerging contaminants and its utilization in all products should be regulated.

Concepts: Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Sewage, Wastewater, Environmental engineering, Effluent, Sanitary sewer, Septic tank


Climate change may affect the ability of soil-based onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) to treat wastewater in coastal regions of the Northeastern United States. Higher temperatures and water tables can affect treatment by reducing the volume of unsaturated soil and oxygen available for treatment, which may result in greater transport of pathogens, nutrients, and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) to groundwater, jeopardizing public and aquatic ecosystem health. The soil treatment area (STA) of an OWTS removes contaminants as wastewater percolates through the soil. Conventional STAs receive wastewater from the septic tank, with infiltration occurring deeper in the soil profile. In contrast, shallow narrow STAs receive pre-treated wastewater that infiltrates higher in the soil profile, which may make them more resilient to climate change. We used intact soil mesocosms to quantify the water quality functions of a conventional and two types of shallow narrow STAs under present climate (PC; 20°C) and climate change (CC; 25°C, 30 cm elevation in water table). Significantly greater removal of BOD5 was observed under CC for all STA types. Phosphorus removal decreased significantly from 75% (PC) to 66% (CC) in the conventional STA, and from 100% to 71-72% in shallow narrow STAs. No fecal coliform bacteria (FCB) were released under PC, whereas up to 17 and 20 CFU 100 mL-1 were released in conventional and shallow narrow STAs, respectively, under CC. Total N removal increased from 14% (PC) to 19% (CC) in the conventional STA, but decreased in shallow narrow STAs, from 6-7% to less than 3.0%. Differences in removal of FCB and total N were not significant. Leaching of N in excess of inputs was also observed in shallow narrow STAs under CC. Our results indicate that climate change can affect contaminant removal from wastewater, with effects dependent on the contaminant and STA type.

Concepts: Bacteria, Water pollution, Soil, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Water quality indicators, Chemical oxygen demand, Septic tank


Large deformability of erythrocytes in microvasculature is a prerequisite to realize smooth circulation. We develop a novel tool for the three-step “Catch-Load-Launch” manipulation of a human erythrocyte based on an ultra-high speed position control by a microfluidic “robotic pump”. Quantification of the erythrocyte shape recovery as a function of loading time uncovered the critical time window for the transition between fast and slow recoveries. The comparison with erythrocytes under depletion of adenosine triphosphate revealed that the cytoskeletal remodeling over a whole cell occurs in 3 orders of magnitude longer timescale than the local dissociation-reassociation of a single spectrin node. Finally, we modeled septic conditions by incubating erythrocytes with endotoxin, and found that the exposure to endotoxin results in a significant delay in the characteristic transition time for cytoskeletal remodeling. The high speed manipulation of erythrocytes with a robotic pump technique allows for high throughput mechanical diagnosis of blood-related diseases.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Cell, Adenosine triphosphate, Blood, Cell membrane, Red blood cell, Glycolysis, Septic tank


Domestic drinking water wells serve 44 million people in the US and are common globally. They are often located in areas served by onsite wastewater treatment systems, including septic systems, which can be sources of biological and chemical pollutants to groundwater. In this study we tested 20 domestic drinking water wells in a sand and gravel aquifer on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, for 117 organic wastewater compounds (OWCs) and for inorganic markers of septic system impact. We detected 27 OWCs, including 12 pharmaceuticals, five per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), four organophosphate flame retardants, and an artificial sweetener (acesulfame). Maximum concentrations of several PFASs and pharmaceuticals were relatively high compared to public drinking water supplies in the US. The number of detected OWCs and total concentrations of pharmaceuticals and of PFASs were positively correlated with nitrate, boron, and acesulfame and negatively correlated with well depth. These wells were all located in areas served exclusively by onsite wastewater treatment systems, which are likely the main source of the OWCs in these wells, although landfill leachate may also be a source. Our results suggest that current regulations to protect domestic wells from pathogens in septic system discharges do not prevent OWCs from reaching domestic wells, and that nitrate, a commonly measured drinking water contaminant, is a useful screening tool for OWCs in domestic wells. Nitrate concentrations of 1mg/L NO3-N, which are tenfold higher than local background and tenfold lower than the US federal drinking water standard, were associated with wastewater impacts from OWCs in this study.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Soil, Aquifer, Groundwater, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Septic tank