This study investigated bioaerosol emission rates and plume characteristics of bioaerosols generated during land application of liquid Class B biosolids. In addition, it compared the rate of aerosolization of coliphages and total coliform bacteria during land application of liquid Class B biosolids to the rate of aerosolization during land application of groundwater inoculated with similar concentrations of Escherichia co//and coliphage MS2. Air samples were taken immediately downwind of a spray applicator as it applied liquid (∼8% solids) biosolids to farmland near Tucson, Arizona. Air samples were also collected immediately downwind of groundwater seeded with MS2 and E. coli applied to land in an identical manner. Air samples, collected with liquid impingers, were taken in horizontal and vertical alignment with respect to the passing spray applicator. Vertical and horizontal sample arrays made it possible to calculate the flux of microorganisms through a virtual plane of air samplers, located 2 m downwind of the passing spray applicator. Neither coliphages nor coliform bacteria were detected in air downwind of spray application of liquid Class B biosolids. Based on limits of detection for the methodology, the rate of aerosolization during land application of liquid biosolids was calculated to be less than 33 plaque forming units (PFU) of coliphage and 10 colony forming units (CFU) of coliform bacteria per meter traveled by the spray applicator. The rate of aerosolization during land application of seeded groundwater was found to be, on average, 2.02 × 103 CFU E. coli and 3.86 × 103 PFU MS2 aerosolized per meter traveled by the spray applicator. This is greater aerosolization than was observed during land application of biosolids. Because concentrations of coliphages and coliforms were similar in the liquid biosolids and the seeded water, it was concluded that some property of biosolids reduces aerosolization of microorganisms relative to groundwater. Additional experiments utilizing a novel air sampling protocol showed that the duration of bioaerosol exposure immediately (2 m) downwind of biosolids spray application is brief and the plume of bioaerosols generated is discrete. Additional air samples showed that aerosolization of coliphages and coliform bacteria after liquid biosolids have been applied to land does not occur at detectable levels.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry