Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Sarina J. Ergas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jan Bartacek, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey Cunningham, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ricardo Izurieta, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Babu Joseph, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrea Tejada-Martínez, Ph.D.


Bioprocesses modeling, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia lamblia, International development, Risk assessment


Use of tubular anaerobic digesters to treat livestock waste in developing countries has energy, agricultural, health, social and environmental benefits. However, careful use of digester effluent as a soil amendment is required due to the potential presence of protozoan parasites Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia. This research investigated the performance of four tubular digesters in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica. High (>75%) volatile solids and BOD5 removal efficiencies were observed, which was attributed to the formation of a biologically active floccular sludge layer. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and bioprocess models were developed to evaluate the transport and transformation mechanisms in the digesters. The CFD model estimated a mean liquid hydraulic residence time (HRT) of 23 days and the bioprocess model estimated an average mean cell residence time (MCRT) of 115 days. Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia inactivation studies were performed in the laboratory under conditions similar to the environmental conditions observed in the field tubular digesters. The environmental conditions included: ambient temperatures (21-24°C), neutral pH and total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) concentrations below 250 mg NH4+-N/L. Inactivation rate constants for Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia were 0.056 and 0.726 day-1, respectively. An (oo)cysts solid-liquid phase distribution study indicated that 70% of both (oo)cysts adhered to biosolids. A tubular digester model was used to estimate the concentration of viable (oo)cysts in the digester effluents. (Oo)cysts adhesion to solids, total solids concentration in the digester and HRT were the main factors contributing to the modeled effluent concentration of viable (oo)cysts. Since the model predicted presence of viable (oo)cysts in the tubular digester effluent, a quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) model was developed to estimate the risk of infection from exposure to raw livestock waste and tubular digester effluents in two rural communities in Costa Rica. The risk of infection from Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia was assessed for occupational and public exposure pathways; fomite and soil contamination and crop contamination from runoff. Results from the QMRA indicated that the concentration of (oo)cysts in the raw livestock waste, inactivation rates at the various exposure pathways and the treatment of livestock waste were the main contributing factors to the risk of infection. This research indicated that treatment of livestock waste in tubular digesters significantly decreased the risk of infection to below WHO’s acceptable individual annual risk of infection (10-4). This is the first study to combine mathematical modeling with field studies to determine the physical and biological processes in tubular digesters. This is also the first study to combine mathematical models with field and laboratory studies to determine the concentration of (oo)cysts in tubular digester effluents and to predict the risk of infection from Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia if tubular digester effluent is used as a soil amendment.