Relevance of Different CSO Outlets for Bathing Water Quality in a River System

Combined sewer systems are one of the major sources of microbiological contamination in urban water bodies. However, identification of hotspots for pathogen emissions is not straightforward, especially in large and complex drainage systems. To determine the relevance of different CSO outlets for bathing water quality a simple tracer approach which uses wastewater volume as a proxy for pathogen emissions has been developed and tested for the city of Berlin, Germany. The approach reveals that the average wastewater ratio in CSO varies largely between different river outlets (0 to 15%). Hence, the outlets with the largest CSO volumes are not automatically the greatest wastewater emitters and assumed hotspots for pathogen contamination do not coincide with hydraulic hotspots. This is verified with own measurements that show enormous differences in pathogen concentrations between waste and stormwater of 4 orders of magnitude. As a result, wastewater which represents only 5% of the CSO volume contributes > 99% of the pathogen loadings to the river. The study highlights the relevance of wastewater volumes for the identification of point sources for the hygienic impairment of water bodies.

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