Secondary effluent of wastewater treatment plants contains a high number of viruses and other pathogens, which pose a health risk to the population, (especially when receiv ng waters are used for bathing and swimming, or for growing shellfish. In areas with a high density of population, where drinking water supply is dependent on surface waters and contaminated rivers are the primary source of drinking water, failure of the filtration or of the disinfection step, or of any other “barriers” supposed to warrant safe potable water, will increase the risk of health hazard for the consumer.

We have compared the efficiency of viral elimination in secondary effluent by flocculation, uv rradiation and membrane filtration taking naturally occurring, or additionally seeded f2 phages, as indicator for viruses. Flocculation decreased the number of phages present in secondary effluent by more than two logs. If combined with uv irradiation, the elimination reached five additional logs. Membrane filtration eliminated essentially all naturally occurring phages.

Improvement of the quality of surface waters calls for a refinement of detection methods for viruses. We have found that the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) might be used for detecting viruses in surface waters.

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