SEWAGE NITROGEN CONTAMINANTS
- CONTENTS: Septic system nitrogen contaminants: identifying pathogens and nitrogen, nitrate, and nitrite contaminants produced in soil or water by onsite waste disposal systems
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This document discusses nitrogen contamination (excess nitrogen or nitrate/nitrite levels) found in soils due to onsite septic systems.
We discusses further the principal nitrogen contaminants produced by septic systems or on-site waste disposal systems. This article discusses nitrogen and nitrate contaminants and links to sister documents discussing septic tank pathogens and other contaminants
as well as to discussions of what to do about sewage backups in buildings and how to inspect and repair a septic system after flooding.
We include discussion of health or other concerns with soil and groundwater contamination and with measures adopted to address these problems.
The photo above shows what dirt and sewage effluent may look like in a yard where the sewer line between the house and septic tank
is damaged and leaking. Nitrates, nitrites, and sewage pathogens leaking from a septic system to the soil surface and subsoil waters are potential health hazards.
NITROGEN CONTAMINATION: nitrogen discharge from sewage treatment plants
Generally the discharge of nitrogen into arid land soil is very beneficial, as nitrogen (N) is beneficial to plants. Limits on the nitrogen level in soil may be a limit on the plant's successful growth. The discharge of nitrogen into tropical and temperate soil is also beneficial, but there remains a concern that the leachage of excess nitrogen into the water supply or into ground water is not desirable.
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The discharge of nitrogen into the ocean is probably ok. While nitrogen is harmful and forms the limiting nutirient for algae growth, the dilution of the large volume of ocean water makes it unlikely that there is a measurable effect.
Watch out: Conversely the discharge of nitrogen (for example in wastewater or in farmland runoff) into fresh water lakes, streams or similar bodies is highly undesirable. In this environment the nitrogen level is algae's second most limiting nutrient. We see this effect in the excessive growth of algae along the shores of a freshwater lake where sewage effluent (containing high levels of nitrogen and other nutrients) leaks into the lake water.
Photo at above left, algae growth along a freshwater lake shore close to a septic system drainfield. While not water tests nor soil tests were performed at this location, and while there were no septic odors, further along the same shore but more distant from this concentration we did not find the same algae growth even though other conditions were the same.
New York -- January 11, 2006. New York City will spend more than $700 million on advanced water treatment systems to help restore Long Island Sound's water quality by upgrading
municipal sewage treatment plants over the coming decade in order to reduce the discharge of nitrogen.
Nitrogen in treated sewage effluent causes a number
of problems including excessive algae growth, reduced oxygen in water, and the death of fish, shellfish, and plants. The project will address Jamaica Bay and
other water systems in the area. -- New York Times, page B4, 1/11/2006.
NITROGEN REFERENCES - Nitrogen Contaminants in Sewage - Reference List & Excerpts
That nitrogen release is a worldwide concern is evident from these example reports on nitrogen and sewage treatment.
"There is consensus that the water clarity and coral reefs of Eilat are deteriorating. The widely suggested explanation
for the degradation is that Eilat waters are suffering from sustained inputs of organic carbon and nutrients.
International Expert Team (IET) was tasked to identify existing and potential sources of pollution; assess the carrying
capacity of the Gulf for fish-farming; and formulate recommendations for minimization of pollution and environmental
pressures. The IET considered 10 factors contributing to pollution in the Gulf: phosphate dust, sewage, fish-farms,
groundwater inputs, siltation, marina activities, oil, tourist diving activities, water temperature, and port-ballast
The IET recognizes that there have been multiple stressors on the coral reefs of Eilat over the past 25 years,
and these are discussed and ranked in the report. Presently, environmental pressures include: 1) continued inputs of
nutrients from Aqaba phosphate dust, Aqaba sewage, and fish farms; 2) siltation from construction; 3) diving activities
and, perhaps, 4) increased water temperature."
In the past 25 years, total nitrogen in the water of the northern Gulf appears to have doubled, but varies seasonally.
The large seasonal fluctuations are approximately equivalent to all the nitrogen input from fish-farms over the last 10
years and one-fourth of all the nitrogen input from sewage over the last 30 years;..."
"Abstract Due to the lack of agricultural water resources and the continuously increasing volume of sewage discharging
all over the country, sewage has already become an important water resources for agriculture irrigation in the suburbs
near many big cities in the North.In 1991 sewage irrigation area has reached 3 million hectares about 6%of the total
On the one hand, sewage irrigation alleviates agricultural water shortage, and on the other hand, it reduces
the harmful impact on water environment by discharging sewage. However,three big problems on sewage irrigation have been
existing for many years. They are the low water quality, the blind development on irrigation area and the backward research
Thus, the sewage irrigation has become one of the three sources of water environment worsening in the
village.It has been jeopardizing not only the quality of food and drinking water in the irrigation area, but also the food
safety of 1.6 billion populations until the 21 st century.The following suggestions and countermeasures are provided in
PATHOGENS in SEWAGE
At our continued reading link just below we point to an article on the pathogens or toxins found in sewage.
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"Bacterial Pathogens Recovered from Vegetables Irrigated by Wastewater in Morocco", Y. Karamoko, K. Ibenyassine, M. M. Ennaji, B. Anajjar, R. Ait Mhand, M. Chouibani, Journal of Environmental Health, June 2007.
Abstract: The authors obtained 50 vegetable samples from various regions in Morocco and examined them to determine the micro biological quality of these products. Aerobic count, coliform, enterococci, and Staphylococcus areus were evaluated. This analysis revealed high levels of enterococci, fecal coliforms, and total coliforms. No coagulase-positive Staphylococcus aureas was detected in any of the samples analyzed. Biochemical identification of Enterobacteriaceae showed the presence of Citrobacter freundii (28 percent), Enterobacter cloacae (27 percent), Escherichia coli (16 percent), Enterobacter sakazakii (12 percent), Klebsiella pneamoniae (17 percent), Serratia liquefaciens (11 percent), and Salmonella arizonae (0.7 percent). The results clearly demonstrate that vegetables irrigated with untreated wastewater have a high level of microbiological contamination. Consequently, these vegetables may be a threat for the Moroccan consumer and may be considered a serious risk to Moroccan public health. ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR Copyright of Journal of Environmental Health is the property of National Environmental Health Association and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. Contact Us to request a copy of this article stored as BacterialPathogens.pdf if you have difficulty obtaining a copy of this full article for private use.
Beuchat, L.R. (1996). Pathogenic microorganisms associated with
fresh produce. Journal of Food Protection, 59(2), 204-216.
Evans, M.R., Ribiero, CD., & Salmon, R.L. (2003). Hazards of
healthy Living: Boiled water and salad vegetables as risk Factors
For Campylobacter infection. Emerging Infectious Disease, 9(10),
Guo, X., Chen, j . , Brackett, R.E., & Beuchat. LR. (2001). Survival of
Saimonellae on and in tomato plants From the time of inoculation at
flowering and early stages of fruit development through fruit ripening.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 67(10), 4760-4764
Madden, J.M. (1992). Microbial pathogens in fresh produce—The
regulatory perspective. Journal of Food Protection, 55, 821-823.
Shearer, A.E., Strapp, CM., & Joerger, R.D. (2001). Evaluation of
polymerase chain reaction-based system for detection of Salmonella
enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria spp., and Listeria monocytogenes on Fresh Fruit and vegetables. Journal of Food
Protection, 64(6), 788-795.
"Septic Tank/Drainfield System Fact Sheet", Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Drinking Water, Source Protection Program - (801) 536-4200 Division of Water Quality - (801) 538-6146 Sonja Wallace, Pollution Prevention Coordinator - (801) 536-4477 Environmental Hotline - 1-800-458-0145 - Original source: http://www.drinkingwater.utah.gov/documents/spec_services/pollution_prevention_septic_tanks.pdf
New York State Wastewater Treatment Standards - Individual Household Systems, Appendix 75-A (1990),
Public Health Law 201(1)(1).
treatment systems, Bennette D. Burks & Mary Margaret Minnis. Textbook and reference manual on all aspects of onsite treatment. This is one of the best books we've reviewed on the subject, with an excellent balance of clear simple explanation and solid engineering. Topics: Soil & Site Selection, Hydraulics, System Selection & Design, Wastewater Biology, History & Mythology of Onsite Wastewater
Treatment. $49.95, Hogarth House, Ltd., 800-993-2665 x327 order a copy from the InspectApedia bookstore (Amazon.com) or order by telephone 800 -993-2665 x327 (Univ. Wisc. Bookstore)
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.
Septic & Sewage Pathogens and Contaminants, References & Research Articles
Amahmid, O., Asmama, S., & Bouhoum, K. (1999). The effect of waste water reuse in irrigation on the contamination level of food crops by Giardia cysts and Ascaris eggs. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 49(1-2), 19-26.
Barak, J.D., Whitehand, L.C., & Charkowski, A.O. (2002). Differences in attachment of Salmonella enterica serovars and Escherichia coli O157:H7 to alfalfa sprouts. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 68(10), 4758-4763.
Beuchat, L.R. (1996). Pathogenic microorganisms associated with fresh produce. Journal of Food Protection, 59(2), 204-216.
Castro-Rosas, J., & Escartin, E.F. (2000). Survival and growth of Vibrio cholerae O1, Salmonella typhi, and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in alfalfa sprouts. Journal of Food Science, 65(1), 162-165.
Charkowski, A.O., Barak, J.D., Sarreal, C.Z., & Mandrell, R.E. (2002). Growth and colonization patterns of Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli O157:H7 on alfalfa sprouts and the effects of sprouting temperature, iinoculum /in·oc·u·lum/ (-ok´u-lum) pl. inoc´ula material used in inoculation.
Evans, M.R., Ribeiro, C.D., & Salmon, R.L. (2003). Hazards of healthy living: Bottled water and salad vegetables as risk factors for Campylobacter infection. Emerging Infectious Disease, 9(10), 1219-1225.
Frost, J.A., McEvoy, M.B., Bentley, C.A., Andersson, Y., & Rowe, B. (1995). An outbreak of Shigella sonnei infection associated with consumption of iceberg. Emerging Infectious Disease, 1(1), 26-28.
Guo, X., Chen, J., Brackett, R.E., & Beuchat, L.R. (2001). Survival of Salmonellae on and in tomato plants from the time of inoculation at flowering and early stages of fruit development through fruit ripening,
said of meat. See curing. . Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 67(10), 4760-4764.
Guo, X., Chen, J., Brackett, R.E., & Beuchat, L.R. (2002). Survival of Salmonellae on tomatoes stored at high relative humidity, in soil, and on tomatoes in contact with soil. Journal of Food Protection, 65(2), 274-279.
Guo, X., Iersel, M.W.V., Chen, J., Brackett, R.E., & Beuchat, L.R. (2002). Evidence of association of salmonellae with tomato plants grown hydroponically in inoculated nutrient solution. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 68(7), 3639-3643.
Itoh, Y., Sugita-Konishi, Y., Kasuga, E, Iwaki, M., Hara-Kudo, Y., Saito, N., Noguchi, Y, Konuma, H., & Kumagai, S. (1998) Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli enterohemorrhagic Escherichia EHEC Any of the E coli serotypes–eg O29, O39, O145 that produces shiga-like toxins, causing bloody inflammatory diarrhea, evoking a HUS. See Escherichia coli O157:H7, Hemolytic uremic syndrome. O157:H7 present in radish sprouts. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 64(4), 1532-1535.
Madden, J.M. (1992). Microbial pathogens in fresh produce--The regulatory perspective. Journal of Food Protection, 55, 821-823.
McMahon, M.A.S., & Wilson, I.G. (2001). The occurrence of enteric pathogens and Aeromonas species in organic vegetables. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 70(1-2),155-162.
Puohiniemi, R., Heiskanen, T., & Siitonen, A. (1997). Molecular epidemiology of two international sprout-borne Salmonella outbreaks. Journal of Clinical Microbiology
. 35(10), 2487-2491.
Shearer, A.E., Strapp, C.M., & Joerger, R.D. (2001). Evaluation of polymerase chain reaction-based system for detection of Salmonella enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria spp., and Listeria monocytogenes on fresh fruit and vegetables. Journal of Food Protection, 64(6), 788-795.
Takeuchi, K., Hassan, A.N., & Frank, J.F. (2001). Penetration of Escherichia coli O157:H7 into lettuce as influenced by modified atmosphere and temperature. Journal of Food Protection, 64(11), 1820-1823.
Wright, C., Kominos, S.D., & Yee, R.B. (1976). Enterobacteriaceae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa recovered from vegetable salads. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 31(3), 453-454.
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