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Forslund A.,Copenhagen University | Ensink J.H.J.,London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | Markussen B.,Copenhagen University | Battilani A.,Consorzio di Bonfica di secondo grado per il Canale Emilliano Romagnolo | And 5 more authors.
Water Research | Year: 2012

Faecal contamination of soil and tomatoes irrigated by sprinkler as well as surface and subsurface drip irrigation with treated domestic wastewater were compared in 2007 and 2008 at experimental sites in Crete and Italy. Wastewater was treated by Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR) technology, gravel filtration or UV-treatment before used for irrigation. Irrigation water, soil and tomato samples were collected during two cropping seasons and enumerated for the faecal indicator bacterium Escherichia coli and helminth eggs. The study found elevated levels of E. coli in irrigation water (mean: Italy 1753 cell forming unit (cfu) per 100 ml and Crete 488 cfu per 100 ml) and low concentrations of E. coli in soil (mean: Italy 95 cfu g-1 and Crete 33 cfu g-1). Only two out of 84 tomato samples in Crete contained E. coli (mean: 2700 cfu g-1) while tomatoes from Italy were free of E. coli. No helminth eggs were found in the irrigation water or on the tomatoes from Crete. Two tomato samples out of 36 from Italy were contaminated by helminth eggs (mean: 0.18 eggs g-1) and had been irrigated with treated wastewater and tap water, respectively. Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis DNA fingerprints of E. coli collected during 2008 showed no identical pattern between water and soil isolates which indicates contribution from other environmental sources with E. coli, e.g. wildlife. A quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) model with Monte Carlo simulations adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) found the use of tap water and treated wastewater to be associated with risks that exceed permissible limits as proposed by the WHO (1.0 × 10-3 disease risk per person per year) for the accidental ingestion of irrigated soil by farmers (Crete: 0.67 pppy and Italy: 1.0 pppy). The QMRA found that the consumption of tomatoes in Italy was deemed to be safe while permissible limits were exceeded in Crete (1.0 pppy). Overall the quality of tomatoes was safe for human consumption since the disease risk found on Crete was based on only two contaminated tomato samples. It is a fundamental limitation of the WHO QMRA model that it is not based on actual pathogen numbers, but rather on numbers of E. coli converted to estimated pathogen numbers, since it is widely accepted that there is poor correlation between E. coli and viral and parasite pathogens. Our findings also stress the importance of the external environment, typically wildlife, as sources of faecal contamination. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Forslund A.,Copenhagen University | Ensink J.H.J.,London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | Battilani A.,Consorzio di Bonfica di secondo grado per il Canale Emilliano Romagnolo CER | Kljujev I.,University of Belgrade | And 7 more authors.
Agricultural Water Management | Year: 2010

Clean water has become one of the main limiting factors in agricultural food production in Europe, especially for countries around the Mediterranean, who now face more severe and frequent seasonal water shortages. In order to overcome water shortages the European Water Framework Directive encourages and promotes the use of treated urban wastewater in agriculture. However, the use of poor quality water in agriculture poses potential health risks. The application of wastewater through subsurface drip irrigation lines could possibly overcome public health concerns by minimizing contact with wastewater by farmers, farm workers but it is uncertain if the risk for consumers of wastewater irrigated produces would be acceptable. The objective of the current study was therefore to assess whether subsurface irrigation of potatoes with low quality water was associated with higher food safety and reduced human health risks as compared with surface irrigation. The microbial quality of soil and potatoes irrigated by sprinkler, furrow and subsurface drip irrigation, using treated urban wastewater, canal water and tap water were compared at experimental sites near Belgrade, Serbia and in Bologna, Italy. Water, soil and potato samples were collected from March 2007 to September 2008 and their faecal contamination estimated by enumeration of the faecal indicator Escherichia coli. In addition, water and potatoes in Italy were analysed for the presence of helminth eggs, another important indicator of faecal pollution. A quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) model combined with Monte Carlo simulations was used to assess whether the different irrigation practices and associated health risks complied with guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The study found low levels of E. coli in irrigation water (Italy mean value: 1.7 colony forming units (cfu)/ml and Serbia 11cfu/ml), as well as in soil (Italy mean: 1.0cfu/g and Serbia 1.1cfu/g). Similar low concentrations of E. coli were found on potatoes (Italy mean: 1.0cfu/g and Serbia 0.0cfu/g). The vast majority (442/516) of the collected different samples were free of E. coli. No helminth eggs were found in any types of irrigation water or on the surface of potatoes. The risk assessment models found the use of treated wastewater to exceed the levels of risks for gastro-intestinal disease (1.0×10-3 disease risk) as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the accidental ingestion of soil by farmers (Serbia: 0.22 and Italy: 5.7×10-2). However, samples that exceeded disease risks set by the WHO were collected before initiation of wastewater irrigation and were limited to a few numbers of samples, which would indicate environmental contamination not linked to irrigation practice. Disease risk from consumption of potatoes in Italy and in Serbia was found to be within acceptable levels. No relationship was found between E. coli concentrations in irrigation water, soil and produce. Similar lack of association was found for E. coli findings in sprinkler, furrow or subsurface drip irrigated soils and produce. This indicates that subsurface drip irrigation can be practiced while ensuring food safety and protecting the health of consumers and farmers. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

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