Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Thomas Canam


Despite our dependency on treatment facilities to condition wastewater for eventual release to the environment, our knowledge regarding the effects of treated water on the local watershed is extremely limited. Responses of these lotic systems to the treated wastewater effluent have been traditionally investigated by examining the benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages and community structure; however, these studies do not address the microbial diversity of the water systems. In the present study, planktonic and benthic bacterial community structure were examined at fourteen sites (from 60 m upstream to 12,100 m downstream) and at two time points along an aquatic system receiving treated effluent from the Charleston Waste Water Treatment Plant (Charleston, IL). Total bacterial DNA was isolated and 16S rRNA sequences were analyzed using the Illumina MiSeq v3 platform. The community structure in planktonic bacterial communities was significantly correlated to water quality, specifically dissolved oxygen. Benthic bacterial communities were not correlated to water quality, but instead had a significant geographic structuring. A local restructuring effect was observed in both planktonic and benthic communities near the treated wastewater effluent, which was characterized by an increase in abundance of sphingobacteria. Similarly, sites further downstream from the wastewater facility appeared to be less influenced by the effluent. Overall, the present study demonstrated the utility of bacterial metagenomics as a tool to assess the effects of treated wastewater effluent on the receiving water system. In the near future, operators of wastewater treatment facilities could use this technology for routine monitoring, or to assess the impact of new sterilization methods, such as UV or ozone treatment.