Researchers at Crocker Nuclear Laboratory and the University of California-Davis veterinary school, have spent the last three years looking for new ways to disinfect farm wastewater before it is recycled for use.

One experiment featured radiofrequency power, which is a physical method of electromagnetic energy that heats a product uniformly throughout, leaving no chemical residues. The process operates with electrical power that generates a rapidly oscillating electric field between two parallel electrodes. The material to be processed is placed between these electrodes.

Using this method, the researchers were able to completely inactivate bacteria in wastewater from dairy and swine facilities in less than a minute when temperatures of 140° F to 149° F were achieved. Before treatment, the samples contained high levels of Salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7 and Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis.

Therefore, the scientists theorize this method offers a new alternative to livestock producers who recycle wastewater. The next step is to test it in a real-world setting on farms.