The majority of coastal Antarctic research stations discard untreated sewage waste into the near-shore marine environment. However, Antarctic solar conditions are unique, with ozone depletion increasing the proportion of potentially damaging ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation reaching the marine environment. This study assessed the influence of Antarctic solar radiation on the viability of Escherichia coli and sewage microorganisms at Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctic Peninsula.
Cell viability decreased with increased exposure time and with exposure to shorter wavelengths of solar radiation. Cell survival also declined with decreasing cloud cover, solar zenith angle and ozone column depth. However, particulates in sewage increased the persistence of viable bacteria. Ultraviolet radiation doses over Rothera Point were highest during the austral summer. During this time, solar radiation may act to partially reduce the number of viable sewage-derived microorganisms in the surface seawater around Antarctic outfalls.
Nevertheless, this effect is not reliable and every effort should be made to fully treat sewage before release into the Antarctic marine environment.
Hughes, K.A., 2005. Effect of Antarctic solar radiation on sewage bacteria viability. Water research, 39(11), pp.2237-2244.
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Category: Solar & Photovoltaics