Jacob, J.; Correia, C.; Torres, A.F.; Xufre, G.; Matos, A.; Ferreira, C.; Reis, M.P.; Caetano, S.; Freitas, C.S.; Barbosa, A.B., and Cravo, A., 2020. Impacts of decommissioning and upgrading urban wastewater treatment plants on the water quality in a shellfish farming coastal lagoon (Ria Formosa, South Portugal). In: Malvárez, G. and Navas, F. (eds.), Global Coastal Issues of 2020. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 95, pp. 45–50. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
Ria Formosa is a productive coastal lagoon, located on the south coast of Portugal, and represents the largest national producer of shellfish bivalves (ca. 90% production). This ecosystem is subjected to various anthropogenic pressures, including the discharge of urban wastewater treatment plants (UWWTP), which impacts the lagoon water quality. This study aimed to assess the impact of alterations in the functioning of two UWWTP on the water quality of Ria Formosa, based on chemical variables, phytoplankton composition (including potential harmful species) and faecal contamination. During the period September 2018 - October 2019, water sampling was conducted along dominant longitudinal gradients of the effluent dispersion from the discharge point (1-2 km), for two sites: a decommissioned (OP) and a modified (FO) UWWTP. After modification, the later started receiving a higher influent volume (ca. 40%), under an innovative technology system (biological treatment in aerobic granular sludge). Based on chemical water quality variables, phytoplankton and indicators of faecal contamination, a significant improvement along the longitudinal gradient from the discharge point was observed after OP decommissioning. This improvement was fast, being detected two months after decommissioning, positively affecting areas used as shellfish farming grounds. However, distribution patterns of bacteriological indicators and regular shellfish harvesting interdictions suggested an alternative source of faecal contamination after OP decommissioning. At FO, both chemical variables and bacteriological indicators of faecal contamination revealed a slower improvement, only six-months after the UWWTP alteration. Before that, increased and highly variable ammonium, chlorophyll a concentration, phytoplankton abundances and Escherichia coli densities, revealed an unstable phase. Overall, a lower water quality at FO in respect to OP reflected not only a higher effluent volume but also more restricted water circulation for the former.