From 1985 to 1987, long-term and more or less permanent effects of discharges from combined or separate sewer systems on communities of sessile diatoms and macro-invertebrates in receiving waters have been studied. Sessile diatoms and/or macro-invertebrates have been investigated on 46 locations, spread all over The Netherlands. The results were related to the type of sewer system, the discharges, and the characteristics of the receiving water, and compared with results from sample(s) taken from a corresponding water not influenced by sewer overflows, the reference water.

In general, communities of sessile diatoms and macro-invertebrates indicate a more severe organic pollution and disturbance of receiving waters compared with reference waters. In the immediate vicinity of the overflows these communities were more disturbed than at some distance. In small ditches, effects were more pronounced compared with large waterbodies and waters with a constant flow regime. Finally, effects of combined sewer overflows were more pronounced than effects of discharges from separate sewer systems, except for locations in industrial areas.

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