Distribution pipe biofilms can provide sites for the concentration of a wide range of microbial pathogens, thereby acting as a potential source of continual microbial exposure and furthermore can affect the aesthetic quality of water. In a joint project between Stockholm Water, the MISTRA “Sustainable Urban Water” program, the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control and the Royal Technical University, Stockholm, the aim of the current study was to investigate biofilms formed in an urban water distribution system, and quantify the impact of such biofilms on potential pathogen accumulation and persistence within the Greater Stockholm Area, Sweden. When used for primary disinfection, ultra-violet (UV) treatment had no measurable influence on biofilm formation within the distribution system when compared to conventional chlorination. Biofilms produced within a model pilot-plant were found to be representative to those that had formed within the larger municipal water distribution system, demonstrating the applicability of the novel pilot-plant for future studies. Polystyrene microspheres (1.0μm) and Salmonella bacteriophages demonstrated their ability to accumulate and persist within the model pilot-plant system, where the means of primary disinfection (UV-treatment, chlorination) had no influence on such phenomena. With the exception of aeromonads, potential pathogens and faecal indicators could not be detected within biofilms from the Stockholm water distribution system. Results from this investigation may provide information for water treatment and distribution management strategies, and fill key data gaps that presently hinder the refinement of microbial risk models.

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