A microbiological survey of a constructed wetland system supplied by dairy 'dirty water' effluent

Janette Brettell, Irene R. Grant, Michael Rowe, Michael Mulholland, Greg Forbes, Robert Foy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


A constructed wetland at Greenmount College, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland was built in 2004 to study the treatment of ‘dirty water’ effluent from the Greenmount dairy unit. The effluent has a mean BOD5 of c.1000 mg/L and contains milking parlour wash-water and runoff from silage clamps and yard areas lightly contaminated with cattle manure. The nominal water retention time of this wetland is 100 days. The primary purposes of the wetland are to eliminate organic pollution and eutrophication risk from nitrogen and phosphorus compounds. However the wetland should also effectively remove any zoonotic pathogens present in manure and milk. Accordingly, a 12-month microbiological survey of water in the five ponds of the wetland commenced in August 2007. The aims of the survey are to determine changes, as effluent passes through the wetland system, in a broad range of indicator organisms (faecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, Enterococcus faecalis and Clostridium perfringens) and the occurrence of several pathogens - Salmonella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium and Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (Map). The highest indicator organism counts - E. coli and faecal coliforms, 103-104 CFU/ml - are observed in pond 1, and a significant reduction (1-3 log10) in all indicator organisms occurs as water passes through the wetland from pond 1 to pond 5. Hence the wetland is efficient at reducing levels of indicator organisms in the dairy effluent. Salmonella and Campylobacter spp. are being detected intermittently in all the ponds, whilst Cryptosporidium and Map have yet to be detected, and so the ability of the wetland to reduce/eliminate specific pathogens is less clear at present.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 11th International Conference on Wetland Systems for Water Pollution Control
Place of PublicationIndore, India
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008


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