Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sewage lagoons remove most - but not all - pharmaceuticals

15.02.2013
2012 marked the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which established regulations for the discharge of pollutants to waterways and supported the building of sewage treatment plants. Despite these advances, sewage remains a major source of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and naturally occurring hormones found in the environment.

Many rural communities in the United States use aerated lagoon systems to treat their wastewater. The wastewater is pumped into at least one manmade aerated lagoon, in which oxygen-loving and anaerobic microorganisms remove many of the contaminants. The water is then pumped into a series of other lagoons. Finally, the resulting water, known as the effluent, is discharged directly into a receiving stream.

The drugs, chemicals and hormone contaminants such as ibuprofen, caffeine and ethinyl estradiol from urban sewage treatment plants have been studied and monitored widely, but their occurrence in rural lagoon treatment systems is often overlooked.

In a new study led by Wei Zheng, a senior research scientist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and an adjunct faculty member in the University of Illinois department of natural resources and environmental sciences, researchers determined the effectiveness of rural lagoon systems at removing these compounds from wastewater. The research was conducted jointly with the Illinois State Water Survey. The study appears in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Scientists collected water samples in September and November from a rural wastewater treatment plant located in a small town in Illinois. The facility treats sewage wastewater in two aerated lagoons, using a sand tank for filtration. The effluent streams into a creek that flows into the Mackinaw River. The researchers collected samples from various steps during the treatment process for analysis.

The researchers then tested the samples for the presence of 21 commonly used PPCPs and hormones, including caffeine and ibuprofen.

The team found that the lagoon treatment system reduced concentrations of most of the tested compounds. The overall removal efficiency ranged from 88 to 100 percent in September, except for the compound carbamazepine, a drug used for the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder that is notoriously difficult to remove from wastewater. There were no detectable steroid hormones in the aerated lagoons and effluent.

Interestingly, the samples collected in November contained higher concentrations of all detected PPCPs than the samples collected in September. According to Zheng, this is most likely because the microorganisms that break down the compounds work best in warm weather.

Although the efficiency of rural sewage treatment lagoons is relatively high, this study shows that there is a significant increase in the occurrence of PPCPs in surrounding watersheds with the effluent discharge, which could change the rural aquatic environment.

“Some compounds are easy to degrade and remove using this lagoon treatment system, but some compounds are persistent,” Zheng said. “When these persistent compounds are introduced into the environment through effluent discharge, they may contaminate water sources and affect the watershed ecosystem.”

Because people eventually consume this water, the presence of PPCPs and steroid hormones is a concern, Zheng said.

“Pharmaceutical residues are usually detected in the aquatic environment at very low concentrations, below their therapeutic doses employed for medical purposes,” he said. “However, long-term chronic exposure to these emerging contaminants in water supplies may jeopardize human and aquatic habitat health.”

The research also is useful for addressing the potential risks of using rural sewage effluent for crop irrigation, especially as the occurrence of droughts increases, Zheng said.

More research needs to be conducted to understand the environmental fate and negative effects of PPCP and hormone contaminants, but for now, Zheng is happy that the information he and his team found will benefit rural communities to properly utilize lagoon treatment systems to handle their wastewater and help state and federal agencies formulate prudent regulatory programs on agricultural irrigation of rural sewage effluents.

“The (federal Environmental Protection Agency) doesn’t have regulations or management strategies for controlling PPCP and hormone contaminants released from sewage effluents, so our information can raise the public’s attention, help the EPA develop the best management strategies and thereby minimize the loading of these emerging contaminants into the environment and promote the safe and beneficial reuse of treated wastewater in U.S. agriculture,” Zheng said.

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is part of the Prairie Research Institute at the U. of I.

Chelsey Coombs | University of Illinois
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht New mathematical model can help save endangered species
14.01.2019 | University of Southern Denmark

nachricht Foxes in the city: citizen science helps researchers to study urban wildlife
14.12.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

Im Focus: Mission completed – EU partners successfully test new technologies for space robots in Morocco

Just in time for Christmas, a Mars-analogue mission in Morocco, coordinated by the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) as part of the SRC project FACILITATORS, has been successfully completed. SRC, the Strategic Research Cluster on Space Robotics Technologies, is a program of the European Union to support research and development in space technologies. From mid-November to mid-December 2018, a team of more than 30 scientists from 11 countries tested technologies for future exploration of Mars and Moon in the desert of the Maghreb state.

Close to the border with Algeria, the Erfoud region in Morocco – known to tourists for its impressive sand dunes – offered ideal conditions for the four-week...

Im Focus: Programming light on a chip

Research opens doors in photonic quantum information processing, optical signal processing and microwave photonics

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new integrated photonics platform that can...

Im Focus: Physicists uncover new competing state of matter in superconducting material

A team of experimentalists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and theoreticians at University of Alabama Birmingham discovered a remarkably long-lived new state of matter in an iron pnictide superconductor, which reveals a laser-induced formation of collective behaviors that compete with superconductivity.

"Superconductivity is a strange state of matter, in which the pairing of electrons makes them move faster," said Jigang Wang, Ames Laboratory physicist and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists coax proteins to form synthetic structures with method that mimics nature

15.01.2019 | Life Sciences

Next generation photonic memory devices are light-written, ultrafast and energy efficient

15.01.2019 | Information Technology

Viennese scientists develop promising new type of polymers

15.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>