Screening Level Risk Assessment (SLRA) of human health risks from faecal pathogens associated with a Natural Swimming Pond (NSP)

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Petterson, Susan
Li, Qiaozhi
Ashbolt, Nicholas
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Natural swimming ponds (NSPs) are artificially created bodies of water intended for human recreation, characterised by the substitution of chemical disinfection with natural biological processes for water purification. NSPs are growing in popularity, however little is known regarding the public health risks. A screening level risk assessment was undertaken as an initial step in assessing the first Canadian public NSP located in Edmonton, Alberta. Risk of enteric pathogens originating from pool bathers was assessed under normal conditions and following accidental faecal release events. The performance of the natural treatment train for health protection was quantified with and without the addition of UV disinfection of naturally-treated water, and compared to the US EPA benchmark to provide a reference point to consider acceptability. Estimated levels of pathogen contamination of the pond were dependant upon the discrete number of shedders present, which in turn depended upon the prevalence of infection in the population. Overall performance of the natural disinfection system was dependant upon the filtration rate of the natural treatment system or turnover time. Addition of UV disinfection reduced the uncertainty around the removal efficacy, and mitigated the impact of larger shedding events, however the impact of UV disinfection on the natural treatment biome is unknown. Further information is needed on the performance of natural barriers for pathogen removal, and therefore challenge studies are recommended. Given the identified risks, the pool is posted that there is risk from accidental faecal releases, as in any natural water body with swimmers. Screening level risk assessment was a valuable first step in understanding the processes driving the system and in identifying important data gaps.

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Water Research

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Health services and systems

Public health

Cryptosporidium, Norovirus, Campylobacter, Natural swimming ponds


Recreational water quality

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Petterson, S; Li, Q; Ashbolt, N, Screening Level Risk Assessment (SLRA) of human health risks from faecal pathogens associated with a Natural Swimming Pond (NSP), Water Research, 2020, 188, pp. 116501