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Research Area: Pathogens and Human Health

Our Objective

WE&RF's Waterborne Pathogens and Human Health Research Program has provided state-of-the-art methods, relevant and accurate data, and tools to evaluate potential human health risk from waterborne microbes. The results support wastewater and stormwater management decisions and inform the regulatory structure and implementation requirements being considered by the U.S. EPA for the 2012 ambient recreational water quality criteria. Key areas of research include rapid methods for monitoring pathogen indicators, risk assessment tools, source tracking microorganisms, and indicators in inland, tropical, and subtropical waters. View the program's research summary.

Latest News

Water Environment & Reuse Foundation Awards Research Contract to Measure Pathogen Infectivity
WE&RF recently awarded a contract to the University of Michigan to begin research on Molecular Methods for Measuring Pathogen Viability/Infectivity (Reuse-15-07).
The Hunt for the Ideal Indicator Organism
This article from NYWEA ClearWaters magazine highlights the characteristics of an ideal indicator organism, current indicator organisms in WRRF effluents and recreational waters, future potential indicator organisms, and the challenges of using them to monitor wastewater disinfection.
USEPA’s Proposed Bacteriophage Criteria for Recreational Waters
The USEPA plans to update the 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC) with criteria for bacteriophages, and it is expected that the USEPA will issue draft bacteriophage criteria in late 2017. To provide needed information on the fate and persistence of coliphages, the treatability of coliphages, and the potential cost of the coliphage criteria, WE&RF has funded a coliphage research project entitled “Evaluating the Fate of Coliphages in WRRFs and the Potential Costs to Reduce Coliphages in WRRF Effluents. The final report will be available in 2018.
Emerging Contaminant Research Prioritization Decision Making Frameworks Survey
The objective of this project is to develop a transparent and efficient decision making framework to be used in making and communicating decisions around the prioritization of research efforts on emerging water contaminants. This survey has been developed as an initial means of gathering information regarding current practice and further industry needs.
Evaluating Peracetic Acid as Disinfection Alternative in Wastewater Treatment Process (LIFT14T16)
WE&RF recently signed a contract with MWH Americas Inc. to advance the science of peracetic acid (PAA) disinfection, as well as to examine design, implementation, and operational considerations.

Products & Tools

Simple and Fast Detection of Escherichia coli in Recreational Waters (U4R13)
This research resulted in the development of two products which can serve as key resources to transform current recreational water quality monitoring programs, allowing for testing at the point of contamination and results in hours instead of days.
Potential for Exposure to Ebola Virus Surrogates Aerosolized from Wastewater Systems (WERF2C15)
This research assessed the potential for inhalation exposure to aerosolized Ebola virus surrogates in wastewater systems, including toilets, aeration basins, and sewers.
Design and Validation Protocols for UV Disinfection Systems (ENER16C15) Fact Sheet
This fact sheet provides an overview of ongoing WE&RF research. The objective is to develop and demonstrate a UV system design and validation protocol that involves ambient biodosimetry (AB), Lagrangian Actinometry (LA), and computational fluid dynamics-irradiance field (CFD-I) modeling.
Protecting Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators from Emerging Pathogens (WERF3C15)
This report reviews existing protocols for managing liquid waste from Ebola patients prior to flushing into the sanitary sewer system and reveals the need for better information on how to safeguard the wastewater treatment workforce from infectious diseases.
Risks from Ebola Discharge from Hospitals to Sewer Workers (WERF4C15)
Addresses the risk of Ebolavirus transmission to sewer workers downstream from hospitals with Ebola patients where no pretreatment is performed prior to discharge. Examines effectiveness of disinfectants on inactivation of EBOV and other agents.