Legionella spp. are ubiquitous in most environmental water sources; however, sewage treatment plants have not been examined as potential environmental reservoirs for these bacteria. This study used polymerase chain reaction, direct fluorescent-antibody staining, and culture methods to examine raw and treated sewage, ocean-receiving waters, and nearshore coastal environments for the presence of Legionella pneumophila and other Legionella spp. The study concluded that Legionella spp. are present in all phases of sewage treatment and that population numbers do not significantly decline through the treatment process. Ocean-receiving waters located 5 miles offshore, where the treated sewage is discharged, were found to contain Legionella spp., but ocean water between the discharge site and coastal bathing beaches was negative. This suggests that the Legionella spp. from the ocean discharge site were not reaching the nearshore beach waters. A flood control channel and river that entered the ocean were found to contain Legionella spp., and a nearby beach swimming area was also found to be positive, suggesting that land runoff from the flood control channel and river were the source of the Legionella spp. in the beach water samples that tested positive
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