Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

James R. Mihelcic


coliphage, maturation lagoon, Millennium Development Goals, reclaimed water, sanitation, Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket Reactor


Water scarcity is a global concern that impacts many developing countries, forcing people to depend on unclean water sources for domestic, agricultural, and industrial needs. Wastewater is an alternative water source that contains nutrients needed for crop growth. Wastewater reuse for agriculture can cause public health problems because of human exposure to pathogens. Pathogen monitoring is essential to evaluate the compliance of wastewater with established World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wastewater reuse guidelines. Indicator organisms are commonly used to detect pathogens in water and wastewater because they are quick and easy to measure, non-pathogenic, and have simple and inexpensive methods of detection.

The objective of this research was to develop a modified double agar layer assay method that can be conducted in the field to quantify bacteriophage to assess the quality of wastewater for agricultural reuse. Results from the modified double agar layer assay were used to investigate the potential of somatic coliphage as an indicator organism for assessing the potential presence of enteric viruses in developing world treated wastewater, and to use the criteria of a good indicator organism to compare the potential of two commonly used indicator organisms, somatic coliphage and fecal coliforms, as an indicator of enteric viruses in wastewater.

A modified EPA double agar layer method was developed and deployed in a developing world rural community to effectively quantify the concentration of somatic coliphage in a community managed wastewater treatment system composed of a Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) reactor followed by two maturation lagoons. The modified method served as a good indicator of enteric viruses in the water. Somatic coliphages were easily detected and quantified in the field setting using a modified double agar layer method. Somatic coliphage was found to be a potential indicator for enteric viruses rather than fecal coliforms because of their similarity in characteristics and resistances to wastewater treatment. The concentration of somatic coliphage was only reduced by 1.05 log units across the two series maturation lagoon system. Previous literature suggested removal would range from 2.1 to 4.6 log units. Influent wastewater (previously treated by an UASB reactor) had a concentration of 4.38 E+06 PFU/ 100 mL (standard deviation = ±3.7E+06, n = 9) and the treated effluent contained 3.90 E+05 PFU/100 mL (standard deviation = ± 4.5E+05, n = 8) of somatic coliphages. Results suggest that somatic coliphage is a good potential indicator for enteric viruses in wastewater but further research needs to be done.