Physico-chemical properties and bacterial community structure dynamics during the mesophilic anaerobic digestion of pit latrine faecal sludge
The study characterized the changes in physico-chemical properties and bacterial community structure during mesophilic anaerobic digestion (AD) of pit latrine sludge. The sludge was sampled from six different pits six times at an interval of 40 days. Standard techniques were used to assess the changes in pollution indicators including COD and faecal coliforms. Metagenomic DNA from a composite sample from the six pits’ sludge was then extracted at Days 0, 14 and 35 and directly sequenced followed by analysis of the microbial structure using the Ribosomal Database Project tools. Multivariate analyses were used to identify the main determinants of microbial community structure during the digestion process. AD significantly reduced the levels of pollution indicators (p < 0.05). Total solids, volatile solids and COD were reduced by 17–27%, 52–79%, and 42–63%, respectively. The indicator pathogenic microorganisms FC and E. coli were reduced by 34–54% and 35–60%, respectively. The reduction in terms of COD and BOD were, however, not sufficient to satisfy the standards for safe disposal into the environment. Proteobacteria were the most dominant bacterial phylum in the undigested sludge (24.1%) and were significantly reduced to 2.5% at the peak of the AD (Day 14) up until Day 35. Firmicutes significantly increased (p < 0.05) from 22.4% to 28.8% at Day 14 before being reduced to 11.6% at Day 35. This study contributes to our understanding of AD of pit latrine faecal sludge through mesophilic AD as a baseline study, and helps to inform future research on mesophilic AD.
Keywords: anaerobic digestion, bacterial community structure, next generation sequencing, pit latrine sludge, pollution indicators