The elimination of thermotolerant coliforms (Coli44) and spores of sulphite-reducing clostridia (SSRC) in full-scale water treatment was determined by large volume sampling. The objective was to determine the elimination capacity of full-scale treatment processes for micro-organisms, both vegetative bacteria and bacterial spores. In two short-periods in winter and summer, information was collected about the elimination of Coli44 and SSRC by the overall treatment, the contribution of the unit processes and the variability in elimination. Coli44 concentrations in the source waters were reduced by 3.2 to 6.3 log to an average concentration sufficiently low to achieve more than 99% compliance with the drinking water standard. The elimination of SSRC was lower (1.4 to 4.2) and SSRC were observed occasionally (>1%) in finished water by the routine weekly sampling of 100 ml samples. The study also yielded much information about the elimination efficacy of unit processes at the different locations, which enables process optimization and improved process control. Moreover, it is demonstrated that this quantitative information on removal of indicator bacteria by full-scale treatment systems can be used as input for quantitative microbial risk assessment. Further research will be focussed on comparative studies on the removal of faecal indicators and pathogens by unit processes and the improvement of the enumeration methods of pathogens in the source water (recovery efficiencies, specificity).

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