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Concept: Effluent


Artificial sweeteners have been widely incorporated in human food products for aid in weight loss regimes, dental health protection and dietary control of diabetes. Some of these widely used compounds can pass non-degraded through wastewater treatment systems and are subsequently discharged to groundwater and surface waters. Measurements of artificial sweeteners in rivers used for drinking water production are scarce. In order to determine the riverine concentrations of artificial sweeteners and their usefulness as a tracer of wastewater at the scale of an entire watershed, we analyzed samples from 23 sites along the entire length of the Grand River, a large river in Southern Ontario, Canada, that is impacted by agricultural activities and urban centres. Municipal water from household taps was also sampled from several cities within the Grand River Watershed. Cyclamate, saccharin, sucralose, and acesulfame were found in elevated concentrations despite high rates of biological activity, large daily cycles in dissolved oxygen and shallow river depth. The maximum concentrations that we measured for sucralose (21 µg/L), cyclamate (0.88 µg/L), and saccharin (7.2 µg/L) are the highest reported concentrations of these compounds in surface waters to date anywhere in the world. Acesulfame persists at concentrations that are up to several orders of magnitude above the detection limit over a distance of 300 km and it behaves conservatively in the river, recording the wastewater contribution from the cumulative population in the basin. Acesulfame is a reliable wastewater effluent tracer in rivers. Furthermore, it can be used to assess rates of nutrient assimilation, track wastewater plume dilution, separate human and animal waste contributions and determine the relative persistence of emerging contaminants in impacted watersheds where multiple sources confound the usefulness of other tracers. The effects of artificial sweeteners on aquatic biota in rivers and in the downstream Great Lakes are largely unknown.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Environmental engineering, Effluent, Sweeteners, Sucralose


Tannery operations consist of converting raw animal skins into leather through a series of complex water- and chemically-intensive batch processes. Even when conventional primary treatment is supplemented with chemicals, the wastewater requires some form of biological treatment to enable the safe disposal to the natural environment. Thus, there is a need for the adoption of low cost, reliable, and easy-to-operate alternative secondary treatment processes. This paper reports the findings of two pilot-scale wetlands for the secondary treatment of primary effluents from a full tannery operation in terms of resilience (i.e., ability to produce consistent effluent quality in spite of variable influent loads) and reliability (i.e., ability to cope with sporadic shock loads) when treating this hazardous effluent. Areal mass removal rates of 77.1g COD/m(2)/d, 11g TSS/m(2)/d, and 53mg Cr/m(2)/d were achieved with a simple gravity-flow horizontal subsurface flow unit operating at hydraulic loading rates of as much as 10cm/d. Based on the findings, a full-scale wetland was sized to treat all the effluent from the tannery requiring 68% more land than would have been assumed based on literature values. Constructed wetlands can offer treatment plant resilience for minimum operational input and reliable effluent quality when biologically treating primary effluents from tannery operations.

Concepts: Biology, Water pollution, Wetland, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Environmental engineering, Effluent, Constructed wetland


This study aims to determine the occurrence of 10 OPFRs (including chlorinated, nonchlorinated alkyl and aryl compounds) in influent, effluent wastewaters and partitioning into sludge of 5 wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) in Catalonia (Spain). All target OPFRs were detected in the WWTPs influents, and the total concentration ranged from 3.67µgL(-1) to 150µgL(-1). During activated sludge treatment, most OPFRs were accumulated in the sludge at concentrations from 35.3 to 9980ngg(-1)dw. Chlorinated compounds tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP), tris(2-chloroisopropyl) phosphate (TCIPP) and tris(2,3-dichloropropyl) phosphate (TDCPP) were not removed by the conventional activated sludge treatment and they were released by the effluents at approximately the same inlet concentration. On the contrary, aryl compounds tris(methylphenyl) phosphate (TMPP) and 2-ethylhexyl diphenyl phosphate (EHDP) together with alkyl tris(2-ethylhexyl) phosphate (TEHP) were not detected in any of the effluents. Advanced oxidation processes (UV/H2O2 and O3) were applied to investigate the degradability of recalcitrant OPFRs in WWTP effluents. Those detected in the effluent sample (TCEP, TCIPP, TDCPP, tributyl phosphate (TNBP), tri-iso-butyl phosphate (TIBP) and tris(2-butoxyethyl) phosphate (TBOEP)) had very low direct UV-C photolysis rates. TBOEP, TNBP and TIBP were degraded by UV/H2O2 and O3. Chlorinated compounds TCEP, TDCPP and TCIPP were the most recalcitrant OPFR to the advanced oxidation processes applied. The study provides information on the partitioning and degradability pathways of OPFR within conventional activated sludge WWTPs.

Concepts: Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Sewage, Wastewater, Activated sludge, Sewerage, Environmental engineering, Effluent


Triclosan (TCS) is a multi-purpose antimicrobial agent used as a common ingredient in everyday household personal care and consumer products. The expanded use of TCS provides a number of pathways for the compound to enter the environment and it has been detected in sewage treatment plant effluents; surface; ground and drinking water. The physico-chemical properties indicate the bioaccumulation and persistence potential of TCS in the environment. Hence, there is an increasing concern about the presence of TCS in the environment and its potential negative effects on human and animal health. Nevertheless, scarce monitoring data could be one reason for not prioritizing TCS as emerging contaminant. Conventional water and wastewater treatment processes are unable to completely remove the TCS and even form toxic intermediates. Considering the worldwide application of personal care products containing TCS and inefficient removal and its toxic effects on aquatic organisms, the compound should be considered on the priority list of emerging contaminants and its utilization in all products should be regulated.

Concepts: Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Sewage, Wastewater, Environmental engineering, Effluent, Sanitary sewer, Septic tank


Pharmaceutical pollution in surface waters poses risks to human and ecosystem health. Wastewater treatment facilities are primary sources of pharmaceutical pollutants, but little is known about the factors that affect drugs entering the wastewater stream. This paper investigates the effects of student pharmaceutical use and disposal behaviors and an annual demographic shift on pharmaceutical pollution in a university town. We sampled wastewater effluent during a ten-day annual spring student move-out period at the University of Vermont. We then interpreted these data in light of survey results that investigated pharmaceutical purchasing, use, and disposal practices among the university student population. Surveys indicated that the majority of student respondents purchased pharmaceuticals in the previous year. Many students reported having leftover drugs, though only a small portion disposed of them, mainly in the trash. We detected 51 pharmaceuticals in 80% or more of the wastewater effluent samples collected over the ten-day sampling period. Several increased in concentration after students left the area. Concentrations of caffeine and nicotine decreased weakly. Drug disposal among this university student population does not appear to be a major source of pharmaceuticals in wastewater. Increases in pharmaceutical concentration after the students left campus can be tied to an increase in the seasonal use of allergy medications directly related to pollen, as well as a demographic shift to a year-round older population, which supports national data that older people use larger volumes and different types of pharmaceuticals than the younger student population.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Drug, Water pollution, University, Sewage treatment, Pharmaceutical drug, Student, Effluent


Over the past 3-4 decades, per capita consumption of personal care products (PCPs) has steadily risen, resulting in increased discharge of the active and inactive ingredients present in these products into wastewater collection systems. PCPs comprise a long list of compounds employed in toothpaste, sunscreen, lotions, soaps, body washes, and insect repellants, among others. While comprehensive toxicological studies are not yet available, an increasing body of literature has shown that PCPs of all classes can impact aquatic wildlife, bacteria, and/or mammalian cells at low concentrations. Ongoing research efforts have identified PCPs in a variety of environmental compartments, including raw wastewater, wastewater effluent, surface water, wastewater solids, sediment, groundwater, and drinking water. Here, an aggregate analysis of over 5000 reported detections was conducted to better understand the distribution of environmentally-relevant PCP concentrations in, and between, these compartments. The distributions were used to identify whether aggregated environmentally-relevant concentration ranges intersected with available toxicity data. For raw wastewater, wastewater effluent, and surface water, a clear overlap was present between the 25th-75th percentiles and identified toxicity levels. This analysis suggests that improved wastewater treatment of antimicrobials, UV filters, and polycyclic musks is required to prevent negative impacts on aquatic species.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Groundwater, Sewage treatment, Toxicity, Wastewater, Environmental engineering, Effluent


The St. Lawrence River (SLR) is the second largest waterway in North America. The discharge of the City of Montreal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) represents the largest volume of treated wastewaters being released into the river. It also ranks as the largest sewage treatment plant of its kind in North America. Over the last decade, intensive multidisciplinary research has focused on assessing the impacts of Montreal wastewater effluents on the SLR. We describe the major findings of these investigations, including the determination of the fate of contaminants, bioaccumulation in fish and invertebrates, ecotoxicological measurements of aquatic animal health, evaluation of endocrine disruption, parasitism in fish, and combined effects of multiple stressors on the SLR. Impacts of the effluents from the WWTP on aquatic organisms from the SLR are both toxicological and ecological, demonstrating the need for an integrated view of the impacts of municipal effluents on aquatic ecosystems.

Concepts: Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Sewage, Wastewater, Aquatic ecology, Environmental engineering, Effluent, Saint Lawrence River


Conventional wastewater treatment with primary and secondary treatment processes efficiently remove microplastics (MPs) from the wastewater. Despite the efficient removal, final effluents can act as entrance route of MPs, given the large volumes constantly discharged into the aquatic environments. This study investigated the removal of MPs from effluent in four different municipal wastewater treatment plants utilizing different advanced final-stage treatment technologies. The study included membrane bioreactor treating primary effluent and different tertiary treatment technologies (discfilter, rapid sand filtration and dissolved air flotation) treating secondary effluent. The MBR removed 99.9% of MPs during the treatment (from 6.9 to 0.005 MP L(-1)), rapid sand filter 97% (from 0.7 to 0.02 MP L(-1)), dissolved air flotation 95% (from 2.0 to 0.1 MP L(-1)) and discfilter 40-98.5% (from 0.5 - 2.0 to 0.03-0.3 MP L(-1)) of the MPs during the treatment. Our study shows that with advanced final-stage wastewater treatment technologies WWTPs can substantially reduce the MP pollution discharged from wastewater treatment plants into the aquatic environments.

Concepts: Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Denitrification, Environmental engineering, Effluent, Constructed wetland, Septic tank


In sub‒Saharan Africa, non‒typhoidal Salmonellae (NTS) cause invasive disease particularly in children and HIV infected adults, but the disease epidemiology is poorly understood. Between 2012 and 2013, we investigated NTS sources and transmission in Kampala. We detected Salmonella in 60% of the influent and 60% of the effluent samples from a wastewater treatment plant and 53.3% of the influent and 10% of the effluent samples from waste stabilization ponds that serve the human population; 40.9% of flush‒water samples from ruminant slaughterhouses, 6.6% of the poultry fecal samples from live bird markets and 4% of the fecal samples from swine at slaughter; and in 54.2% of the water samples from a channel that drains storm-water and effluents from the city. We obtained 775 Salmonella isolates, identified 32 serovars, and determined resistance to 15 antimicrobials. We genotyped common serovars using multiple‒locus variable number tandem repeats analysis or pulsed‒field gel electrophoresis. In addition, we analyzed 49 archived NTS isolates from asymptomatic livestock and human clinical cases. Salmonella from ruminant and swine sources were mostly pan‒susceptible (95%) while poultry isolates were generally more resistant. Salmonella Kentucky isolated from poultry exhibited extensive drug resistance characterized by resistance to 10 antimicrobials. Interestingly, similar genotypes of S. Kentucky but with less antimicrobial resistance (AMR) were found in poultry, human and environmental sources. The observed AMR patterns could be attributed to host or management factors associated with production. Alternatively, S. Kentucky may be prone to acquiring AMR. The factors driving AMR remain poorly understood and should be elucidated. Overall, shared genotypes and AMR phenotypes were found in NTS from human, livestock and environmental sources, suggesting zoonotic and environmental transmissions most likely occur. Information from this study could be used to control NTS transmission.

Concepts: Gene, Epidemiology, Evolution, Antibiotic resistance, Sewage treatment, Variable number tandem repeat, Livestock, Effluent


Microplastics (<5mm) have been discovered in fresh and saltwater ecosystems, sediments, and wastewater effluent around the world. Their ability to persist and accumulate up food chains should be a concern as research is still experimenting with techniques to assess their long-term effects on the environment. I sought to characterize the microbeads found in facial exfoliating cleansers so as to better understand how to reduce this source of pollution through consumer use and wastewater treatment solutions. By sampling products from national-grossing cosmetic personal care brands, I was able to gather information on the size, color, volume, mass, and concentration of polyethylene beads in the cleansers. From that data, I modeled onto a consumer survey the estimated volume of microplastics entering a wastewater stream. Through inquiry, I learned the practices of two local wastewater treatment facilities. My findings show that consumer decisions and treatment protocols both play crucial parts in minimizing microplastic pollution.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Natural environment, Water pollution, Ecosystem, Sewage treatment, Food chain, Denitrification, Effluent