Risk Assessment of the Schmutzdecke of Biosand Filters: Identification of an Opportunistic Pathogen in Schmutzdecke Developed by an Unsafe Water Source. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(2), 2033-2048.
Hyun Gyu Hwang, et al.
The biosand filter (BSF) is widely applied in developing counties as an appropriate technology-based product for supplying “safe” water. Biosand filters exhibit relatively high purifying efficiency because of the schmutzdecke (biofilm) embedded in them. However, schmutzdecke should be cleaned or discarded on a regular basis to maintain the purifying efficiency of the BSF. Due to its role in BSFs, the purifying function of schmutzdecke, rather than its potential risk when not properly discarded, has so far been the primary focus of research. This study aims to provide a risk assessment of schmutzdecke in an attempt to draw attention to a wholly new angle of schmutzdecke usage. We conducted 16S rRNA gene sequencing and phylogenetic analysis to identify opportunistic pathogens in schmutzdecke developed using water from the Hyung-San River. The results reveal that the schmutzdecke derived from this water source contains diverse and relatively high portions of opportunistic pathogen strains; 55% of all isolates collected from schmutzdecke were identified as opportunistic pathogens. Moreover, the diversity of microorganisms is increased in the schmutzdecke compared to its water source in terms of diversity of genus, phylum and opportunistic pathogen strain. As a whole, our study indicates a potential risk associated with schmutzdecke and the necessity of a solid guideline for the after-treatment of discarded schmutzdecke.