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Hardison, Catherine Adria (2007) WASTEWATER SECURITY: CONTAMINANT PRIORITIZATION AND RAPID PCR METHODS FOR PATHOGEN DETECTION. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Since September 11, 2001, there has been a renewed focus on the security of vital infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment and collection systems. Terrorism, combined with the potential destruction in the wake of natural disasters, has led to an all hazards approach when evaluating contaminants that could be introduced into a wastewater treatment and collection system either accidentally or intentionally.Prioritization is an evaluation technique that can prove useful to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in providing a list of contaminants that would cause the most deleterious effects to the plant and its surrounding area. A framework was developed to focus on four endpoints that would be of the greatest concern to WWTPs. It was applied to 78 contaminants, including biological agents, flammable chemicals, radioactive elements and decontamination agents. Those contaminants having the highest weighted score for each endpoint were considered the greatest threat to the physical treatment plant and its unit processes, the plant's workers, and human and animal populations in contact with its receiving waters. The prioritization process can provide utilities with information on which contaminants should be screened for throughout the plant and collection system. One such method for biological agents, such as Bacillus anthracis, is real-time, rapid cycle polymerase chain reaction (PCR). This rapid analytical technique allows for preliminary detection of pathogen presence in a much shorter time than is required for bacteria culturing. PCR used jointly with a field concentration method greatly improved the sensitivity of the screening process, with a detection limit of 20 cfu/mL in concentrated secondary effluent, as compared to 3.50 x 103 cfu/mL in the unconcentrated sample. The detection limits of Salmonella typhimurium exceeded that expected from volume reduction with log recoveries of 3.53 and 2.24 compared to theoretical log recoveries of 2.40 and 2.10 for river water and secondary effluent, respectively. PCR cannot be applied for Brucella spp. screening due to cross-reactions with other bacteria present within the wastewater system, but for other pathogens, PCR may be a viable option for screening in treated and untreated wastewater.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hardison, Catherine
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCasson,
Committee MemberNeufeld,
Committee MemberStates,
Date: 12 June 2007
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 28 March 2007
Approval Date: 12 June 2007
Submission Date: 6 April 2007
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Civil and Environmental Engineering
Degree: MSCE - Master of Science in Civil Engineering
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: PCR; prioritization; wastewater security
Other ID:, etd-04062007-104825
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:34
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2012 14:59


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