Risk analysis for the human health derived from sewage management: perspectives for the reuse
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Laboratory of Hygiene and Environmental Virology, Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Italy
Acque S.p.A., Italy
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A178
Background and Objectives:
In a changing scenario characterized by extreme weather events and water shortages, a paradigm shift is occurring on wastewaters: from waste to water resource. Europe is moving in that direction through the releasing of a regulation for water reuse in crops irrigation (EU 2020/741) and a profound revision, reuse-oriented, of legislative framework on wastewater management started during 2022. The implementation of reuse practices increases the possibility of human exposure to biological and chemical agents, that needs to be carefully evaluated in a public health perspective. This is the aim of a project funded by the National Operational Programme (NOP) on research and innovation (Europen Social Fund).

The project involves a university and a sewerage company in a collaborative effort for the selection of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) for reuse purposes. A water safety plan (WSP) is developed using both microbiological and physicochemical data from private repositories and field data obtained from dedicated monitoring campaigns, searching for fecal indicators (Escherichia coli, enterococci, bacteriophages) and human pathogens, namely Salmonella spp. and enteric and respiratory viruses (adenovirus, norovirus, enterovirus, coronaviruses). The health risk is assessed through the Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) framework.

In the first phase of the project, two WWTPs has been selected for agricultural and urban reuses. Repository data will be analyzed searching for a chemical proxy for microbial load, whose real-time monitoring allows the application of timely control actions along the sewage treatment (e.g., disinfection process).

The reuse processes are needed for a sustainable development and for adapting to climate change. Wastewater management plays a key role for a safety reuse, limiting health risks. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the application of WSP to sewage treatment in combination with the assessment of human health risks attributable to water reuse

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