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Emission Characteristics of Microbial Aerosols in a Municipal Sewage Treatment Plant in Xi’an, China

Category: Articles

Volume: 13 | Issue: 1 | Pages: 343-349
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2012.05.0123

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Yanpeng Li 1,2,3, Liwei Yang1, Qinglong Meng1, Xionghui Qiu1, Yujie Feng3

  • 1 School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Chang’an University, Xi’an 710054, China
  • 2 Key Laboratory of Subsurface Hydrology and Ecology in Arid Areas, Ministry of Education, Xi’an 710054, China
  • 3 State Key Lab of Urban Water Resource and Environment, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin 150090, China


To characterize the emission of microbial aerosols from the widely used municipal sewage treatment plants (MSTP) in China, an Andersen six-stage impactor and the culture method were employed to determine the concentrations and size distributions of airborne viable bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes in a sewage treatment plant with an oxidation ditch process in Xi’an in summer. The results showed that the concentrations and size distributions of each of the airborne microorganisms varied greatly at different phases of sewage treatment process. The highest bacteria (7866 ± 970 CFU/m3) and actinomycetes concentrations (2139 ± 229 CFU/m3) were found in the sludge-dewatering house while the highest fungi concentration (2156 ± 119 CFU/m3) at the oxidation ditch. The particle size distributions showed that similar single-peak pattern for airborne actinomycetes, bacteria and fungi. Another important finding was that about 52% of airborne bacteria, 62% of airborne fungi and 65% of airborne actinomycetes were in respirable size range (less than 3.3 μm), indicating that most microbial aerosols from MSTP could easily penetrate into the human alveolus. Finally, the order of the count median diameters of different microbial aerosols was found to be similar at each phase, that is, airborne bacteria > airborne fungi > airborne actinomycetes. This implied that airborne actinomycetes emitted from MSTP might have a more significant effect on public health and urban air quality than bacteria and fungi.


Municipal sewage treatment plant Microbial aerosols Emission characteristics Size distribution Actinomycetes

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