Maturation ponds are used in rural and regional areas in Australia to remove the microbial loads of sewage wastewater, however, they have not been studied intensively until present. Using a combination of culture-based methods and quantitative real-time PCR, we assessed microbial removal rates in maturation ponds at four waste stabilization ponds (WSP) with (n = 1) and without (n = 3) baffles in rural and remote communities in Australia. Concentrations of total coliforms, E. coli, enterococci, Campylobacter spp., Salmonella spp., F+ RNA coliphage, adenovirus, Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia (oo) cysts in maturation ponds were measured at the inlet and outlet. Only the baffled pond demonstrated a significant removal of most of the pathogens tested and therefore was subjected to further study by analyzing E. coli and enterococci concentrations at six points along the baffles over five sampling rounds. Using culture-based methods, we found a decrease in the number of E. coli and enterococci from the initial values of 100,000 CFU per 100 mL in the inlet samples to approximately 1000 CFU per 100 mL in the outlet samples for both bacterial groups. Giardia cysts removal was relatively higher than fecal indicators reduction possibly due to sedimentation.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health / Vol. 13, No. 1, Article 96