Increased (Antibiotic-resistant) pathogen indicator organism removal during (hyper)thermophilic anaerobic digestion of concentrated black water for safe nutrient recovery

Marinus J. Moerland, Alicia Borneman, Paraschos Chatzopoulos, Adrian Gonzalez Fraile, Miriam H.A. van Eekert*, Grietje Zeeman, Cees J.N. Buisman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Source separated toilet water is a valuable resource for energy and fertilizers as it has a high concentration of organics and nutrients, which can be reused in agriculture. Recovery of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK) decreases the dependency on energy-intensive processes or processes that rely on depleting natural resources. In new sanitation systems, concentrated black water (BW) is obtained by source-separated collection of toilet water. BW-derived products are often associated with safety issues, amongst which pathogens and antibiotic-resistant pathogens. This study presents results showing that thermophilic (55–60C) and hyperthermophilic (70C) anaerobic treatments had higher (antibiotic-resistant) culturable pathogen indicators removal than mesophilic anaerobic treatment. Hyperthermophilic and thermophilic anaerobic treatment successfully removed Escherichia coli and extended-spectrum β-lactamases producing E. coli from source-separated vacuum collected BW at retention times of 6–11 days and reached significantly higher removal rates than mesophilic (35C) anaerobic treatment (p < 0.05). The difference between thermophilic and hyperthermophilic treatment was insignificant, which justifies operation at 55C rather than 70C. This study is the first to quantify (antibiotic-resistant) E. coli in concentrated BW (10–40 gCOD/L) and to show that both thermophilic and hyperthermophilic anaerobic treatment can adequately remove these pathogen indicators.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9336
Number of pages13
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2020


  • (hyper-)thermophilic anaerobic digestion
  • Antibiotics resistance
  • Black water
  • Nutrient recovery
  • Pathogen removal
  • Source separation

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