Legionella species: A potential problem associated with rain water harvesting systems?

Taylor, Judith A.; McLoughlin, Rory; Sandford, John; Bevan, Ruth and Aldred, David (2021). Legionella species: A potential problem associated with rain water harvesting systems? Indoor and Built Environment, 30(6) pp. 801–815.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1420326x20911128


The risk of Legionella transmission from rain water harvesting (RWH)-fed water toilet flushing was investigated. Experiments monitored RWH tanks to determine Legionella spp. presence which was successfully isolated from three of four of RWH tanks (site 1: 3600 CFU/dm3 in February and 3600 CFU/dm3 in May; site 2: not detected; site 3: <940 GU/dm3; site 4: 44,000 GU/dm3), and to determine whether toilets could generate aerosol droplets capable of harbouring bacteria. The concentrations of particles measuring 10 µm or less in diameter (PM10, capable of reaching the alveolar region of the lungs and causing disease) were monitored following flushes. Aerosols were detectable in an enclosed toilet cubicle (PM10 concentration increased in one experiment from 0.038 mg/m3 when t = 1–600 s to 0.057 mg/m3 when t = 600–800 s). Recovery of Lactobacillus plantarum (surrogate for Legionella) from a seeded toilet cistern (108 CFU ml/dm3) indicated that bacteria were expelled, as demonstrated by recovery on MRS plates placed around the toilet unit. Legionella could be dispersed via aerosols from a toilet flushed with water from an RWH system and the effect would be more pronounced in smaller, enclosed areas, but this is unlikely to pose a risk to human health.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 70092
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 1423-0070
  • Keywords
  • Aerosol emissions; Light scattering particle counter; Legionella; Rain water harvesting; Toilets
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Other Departments > Research, Enterprise and Scholarship
    Other Departments
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2020 The Authors
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  • Jisc Publications-Router
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