Wastewater reuse for agricultural irrigation still raises important public health issues regarding its safety, due to the increasing presence of emerging contaminants, such as antibiotic resistant bacteria and genes, in the treated effluents. In this paper, the potential for a commercial Desal 5 DK nanofiltration membrane to be used as a tertiary treatment in the wastewater treatment plants for a more effective elimination of these pollutants from the produced effluents was assessed on laboratory scale, using a stainless steel cross-flow cell. The obtained results showed high concentrations of total bacteria and target carbapenem and (fluoro)quinolone resistance genes (blaKPC, blaOXA-48, blaNDM, blaIMP, blaVIM, qnrA, qnrB and qnrS) not only in the discharged, but also in the reused, effluent samples, which suggests that their use may not be entirely safe. Nevertheless, the applied nanofiltration treatment achieved removal rates superior to 98% for the total bacteria and 99.99% for all the target resistance genes present in both DNA and extracellular DNA fractions, with no significant differences for these microbiological parameters between the nanofiltered and the control tap water samples. Although additional studies are still needed to fully optimize the entire process, the use of nanofiltration membranes seems to be a promising solution to substantially increase the quality of the treated wastewater effluents.
- antibiotic resistance
- carbapenem and (fluoro)quinolone resistance
- tertiary wastewater treatments
- wastewater reuse