Environmental science & technology

Effect of disinfectant, water age, and pipe material on occurrence and persistence of Legionella, mycobacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and two amoebas.

PMID 23046164


Opportunistic pathogens represent a unique challenge because they establish and grow within drinking water systems, yet the factors stimulating their proliferation are largely unknown. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of pipe materials, disinfectant type, and water age on occurrence and persistence of three opportunistic pathogens (Legionella pneumophila, Mycobacterium avium, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa), broader genera (Legionella and mycobacteria), and two amoeba hosts (Acanthamoeba spp. and Hartmanella vermiformis). Triplicate simulated distribution systems (SDSs) compared iron, cement, and PVC pipe materials fed either chlorinated or chloraminated tap water and were sampled at water ages ranging from 1 day to 5.7 days. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction quantified gene copies of target microorganisms in both biofilm and bulk water. Legionella, mycobacteria, P. aeruginosa, and both amoebas naturally colonized the six SDSs, but L. pneumophila and M. avium were not detected. Disinfectant type and dose was observed to have the strongest influence on the microbiota. Disinfectant decay was noted with water age, particularly in chloraminated SDSs (due to nitrification), generally resulting in increased microbial detection frequencies and densities with water age. The influence of pipe material became apparent at water ages corresponding to low disinfectant residual. Each target microbe appeared to display a distinct response to disinfectant type, pipe materials, water age, and their interactions. Differences between the first and the second samplings (e.g., appearance of Legionella, reduction in P. aeruginosa and Acanthamoeba) suggest a temporally dynamic drinking water microbial community.