A review on Arctic sewage systems is provided as a way to understand the differences and limitations faced by northern communities. Because of that, old practices are often still adopted and pose risks to the population. Untreated wastewater disposal, for example, affects marine life and the public. Exposure to bacteria and viruses present in wastewater can result in numerous, sometimes even deadly, illnesses. Water security is the first possible source of contamination that comes to mind, but recreational water quality has also proven to be an important aspect of public health preservation. Recreational waters are checked for safety according to methods suggested by standards. Checking for the presence of pathogens is not a feasible approach, reason why indicator organisms such as E. coli are often adopted. Sewage handling in Sisimiut and Longyearbyen, the studied Arctic communities, is summarized to present the possibility of wastewater contamination, thus bacteria and viruses, in bathing areas.
In Longyearbyen, literature review was enough to conclude that wastewater is unlikely to reach the city's bathing areas. However, presence of wildlife may be a source of fecal contamination that is still to be assessed. Sisimiut, on the other hand, had little literature available on the matter and sampling was necessary. Sea water samples were collected from the Paaraarsuk bay, where swimming and kayaking take place. Even though wastewater discharge is not expected in the area, considerable levels of E. coli were found. This can be explained by either the existence of illegal discharges or wastewater being transported to the bay by currents and tidal changes.
In conclusion, recreational water quality can be a source of problems in the near future if not enough attention is given to the matter. It is still to be assessed if waterfowl can be a potential source of fecal contamination in Longyearbyen. In Sisimiut, there is a need to verify what is the source of E. coli. If human originated, finding the wastewater outlets contributing the pollution is necessary.