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Concept: Wastewater


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


Despite their wide occurrence, cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis are considered neglected diseases by the World Health Organization. The epidemiology of these diseases and microsporidiosis in humans in developing countries is poorly understood. The high concentration of pathogens in raw sewage makes the characterization of the transmission of these pathogens simple through the genotype and subtype analysis of a small number of samples.

Concepts: AIDS, Genetics, Epidemiology, Parasites, Wastewater, World Health Organization, Microsporidiosis, Enterocytozoon bieneusi


The biotransformation of diclofenac during wastewater treatment was investigated. Attached growth biomass from a carrier-filled compartment of a hybrid-MBBR at the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland was used to test the biotransformation. Laboratory-scale incubation experiments were performed with diclofenac and carriers and high-resolution LC-QTof-MS was implemented to monitor the biotransformation. Up to 20 diclofenac transformation products (TPs) were detected. Tentative structures were proposed for 16 of the TPs after characterization by MS(2) fragmentation and/or inferring the structure from the transformation pathway and the molecular formula given by the high resolution ionic mass. The remaining four TPs were unambiguously identified via analytical reference standards. The postulated reactions forming the TPs were: hydroxylation, decarboxylation, oxidation, amide formation, ring-opening and reductive dechlorination. Incubation experiments of individual TPs, those which were available as reference standards, provided a deeper look into the transformation pathways. It was found that the transformation consists of four main pathways but no pathway accounted for a clear majority of the transformation. A 10-day monitoring campaign of the full-scale plant confirmed an 88% removal of diclofenac (from approximately 1.6 μg/L in WWTP influent) and the formation of TPs as found in the laboratory was observed. One of the TPs, N-(2,6-dichlorophenyl)-2-indolinone detected at concentrations of around 0.25 μg/L in WWTP effluent, accounting for 16% of the influent diclofenac concentration. The biotransformation of carriers was compared to a second WWTP not utilising carriers. It was found that in contact with activated sludge, similar hydroxylation and decarboxylation reactions occurred but at much slower rates, whereas some reactions, e.g. reductive dechlorination, were not detected at all. Finally, incubation experiments were performed with attached growth biomass from a third WWTP with a similar process configuration to Bad Ragaz WWTP. A similarly effective removal of diclofenac was found with a similar presence of TPs.

Concepts: Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Sewage, Wastewater, Industrial wastewater treatment, Sewerage, Environmental engineering, Reductive dechlorination


Human pharmaceuticals have been detected in the terrestrial environment at µg to mgkg(-1) concentrations. Repeated application of sewage sludge (biosolids) and increasing reclaimed wastewater use for irrigation could lead to accumulation of these novel contaminants in soil systems. Despite this, potential phytotoxicological effects on higher plants have rarely been evaluated. These studies aimed to test effects upon germination, development, growth and physiology of two crop plants, namely radish (Raphanus sativus Spakler 3) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa All Year Around), after exposure to different, but structurally related non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at environmentally relevant concentrations. A range of biological endpoints comprising biomass, length, water content, specific root and shoot length, root to shoot ratio, daily progress of stages of cell elongation and organ emergence (primary root, hypocotyl elongation, cotyledon emergence, cotyledon opening, and no change), as well as photosynthetic measurements were evaluated. Compounds from the fenamic acid class were found to affect R. sativus root endpoints (root length and water content), while ibuprofen affected early root development of L. sativa. In general, phytotoxicological effects on root endpoints demonstrated that impacts upon higher plants are not only compound specific, but also differ between plant species. It was found that the usage of a wide range of biological endpoints (all simple, cost-effective and ecologically relevant) were beneficial in detecting differences in plant responses to NSAID exposure. Due to paucity and discrepancy within the few previously available phytotoxicological studies with pharmaceuticals, it is now essential to allocate time and resources to consider development of suitable chronic toxicity tests, and some suggestions regarding this are presented.

Concepts: Plant, Water, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Annual plant, Wastewater, Lettuce


The present study revealed the effects of fly ash (FA) and phosphoric rock (PR) on stabilization of sewage sludge (SS) after vermicomposting for 60 days. The earthworms in all vermibeds showed significant increases in tissue metal; however, the bioconcentration factors (BCFs) of all investigated metals (except Zn) differed among treatments. Additionally, significant differences were observed in the final system weight and SS+Passivant weight reduction among treatments, but not in the percentage reduction of total system weight and organic matter (OM). pH decreased from the initial levels, eventually reaching neutrality. Significantly greater earthworm heavy metals content, growth and reproduction rates and BCFs were observed, while a decreased percentage of total heavy metals concentration and a proportional decrease of extractable metals (except Cu and Zn) were observed in treatments mixed with FA and PR. Furthermore, significant linear correlations between BCFs and a reduction in percentage concentration of total metals (Cu, Pb, Cd and As) were shown, as well as BCF-Cu and relative proportional changes in extractable Cu. These results indicate that vermicomposting with proportions of FA and PR is better for stabilization and remediation of SS in a short period of time.

Concepts: Time, Mass, Zinc, Sewage, Wastewater, Heavy metal music, Earthworm, Sludge


Onsite wastewater systems, or septic tanks, serve approximately 25% of the United States population; they are therefore a critical component of the total carbon balance for natural water bodies. Septic tanks operate under strictly anaerobic conditions, and fermentation is the dominant process driving carbon transformation. Nitrate, Fe(III), and sulfate reduction may be operating to a limited extent in any given septic tank. Electron acceptor amendments will increase carbon oxidation, but nitrate is toxic and sulfate generates corrosive sulfides, which may damage septic system infrastructure. Fe(III) reducing microorganisms transform all major classes of organic carbon that are dominant in septic wastewater: low molecular weight organic acids, carbohydrate monomers and polymers, and lipids. Fe(III) is not toxic, and the reduction product Fe(II) is minimally disruptive if the starting Fe(III) is added at 50-150mgL(-1). We used (14)C radiolabeled acetate, lactate, propionate, butyrate, glucose, starch, and oleic acid to demonstrate that short and long-term carbon oxidation is increased when different forms of Fe(III) are amended to septic wastewater. The rates of carbon mineralization to (14)CO(2) increased 2-5times (relative to unamended systems) in the presence of Fe(III). The extent of mineralization reached 90% for some carbon compounds when Fe(III) was present, compared to levels of 50-60% in the absence of Fe(III). (14)CH(4) was not generated when Fe(III) was added, demonstrating that this strategy can limit methane emissions from septic systems. Amplified 16S rDNA restriction analysis indicated that unique Fe(III)-reducing microbial communities increased significantly in Fe(III)-amended incubations, with Fe(III)-reducers becoming the dominant microbial community in several incubations. The form of Fe(III) added had a significant impact on the rate and extent of mineralization; ferrihydrite and lepidocrocite were favored as solid phase Fe(III) and chelated Fe(III) (with nitrilotriacetic acid or EDTA) as soluble Fe(III) forms.

Concepts: Redox, Soil, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Nitrate, Septic tank, Imhoff tank, Septic drain field


Recent studies suggest the involvement of water in the epidemiology of Cyclospora cayetanensis and some microsporidia. A total of 223 samples from four drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs), seven wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), and six locations of influence (LI) on four river basins from Madrid, Spain, were analyzed from spring 2008 to winter 2009. Microsporidia were detected in 49% of samples (109/223), Cyclospora spp. were detected in 9% (20/223), and both parasites were found in 5.4% (12/223) of samples. Human-pathogenic microsporidia were detected, including Enterocytozoon bieneusi (C, D, and D-like genotypes), Encephalitozoon intestinalis, Encephalitozoon cuniculi (genotypes I and III), and Anncaliia algerae. C. cayetanensis was identified in 17 of 20 samples. To our knowledge, this is the first study that shows a year-long longitudinal study of C. cayetanensis in drinking water treatment plants. Additionally, data about the presence and molecular characterization of the human-pathogenic microsporidia in drinking water, wastewater, and locations of influence during 1 year in Spain are shown. It is noteworthy that although the DWTPs and WWTPs studied meet European and national regulations on water sanitary quality, both parasites were found in water samples from these plants, supporting the idea that new and appropriate controls and regulations for drinking water, wastewater, and recreational waters should be proposed to avoid health risks from these pathogens.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Sociology, Sewage treatment, Cultural studies, Wastewater, Water treatment, Microsporidiosis


Naphthenic acids (NAs) are a complex group of alkyl-substituted acyclic, monocyclic and polycyclic carboxylic acids present in oil sands process waters, crude oil, refinery wastewater and petroleum products. Crude oil, desalter brine, influent, activated sludge mixed liquor and effluent refinery samples were received from six United States refineries. The total acid number (TAN) of the six crudes tested ranged from 0.12 to 1.5 mg KOH/g crude oil and correlated to the total NA concentration in the crudes. The total NA concentration in the desalter brine, influent, activated sludge mixed liquor and effluent samples ranged from 4.2 to 40.4, 4.5 to 16.6, 9.6 to 140.3 and 2.8 to 11.6 mg NA/L, respectively. The NAs in all wastewater streams accounted for less than 16% of the total COD, indicating that many other organic compounds are present and that NAs are a minor component in refinery wastewaters. Susceptibility tests showed that none of the activated sludge heterotrophic microcosms was completely inhibited by NAs up to 400 mg/L. Growth inhibition ranging from 10 to 59% was observed in all microcosms at and above 100 mg NA/L. NAs chronically-sorbed to activated sludge mixed liquor biomass and powdered activated carbon (PAC) were recalcitrant and persistent. More than 80% of the total NAs remained in the solid phase at the end of the 10-day desorption period (five successive desorption steps). Throughout a 90-day incubation period, the total NA concentration decreased by 33 and 51% in PAC-free and PAC-containing mixed liquor microcosms, respectively. The lower molecular weight fraction of NAs was preferentially degraded in both mixed liquors. The persistence of the residual, higher molecular weight NAs is likely a combination of molecular recalcitrance and decreased bioavailability when chronically-sorbed to the biomass and/or PAC.

Concepts: Water, Petroleum, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Activated carbon, Industrial wastewater treatment, Activated sludge, Oil refinery


This study was conducted at a centralized wastewater treatment plant that receives discharges from nearly 160 industries. The chemical oxygen demand (COD) was fractionated for two objectives: delineation of the limits of the activated sludge process being used at the plant, and evaluation of the potential environmental impact of the treated effluent. Physico-chemical analyses, respirometric and biodegradation tests, as well as COD fractionation were carried out. Molasses-wastewaters were determined to be the major contribution to the plant. The influent was dark brown in color, with a relatively high content of both organics (2503 mg/L COD) and salts (5459 μS/cm conductivity), but a low biochemical oxygen demand (568 mg/L BOD(5)) and BOD(5)/COD ratio (0.24). The degradability of the organics was limited by the high content of inert soluble COD (S(I)). The COD fractionation pattern was 40-20-40% for S(I), X(I) (inerts) and S(H) (soluble hydrolyzable), respectively. More than 90% BOD(5) removal was obtained, which was sufficient for the plant to meet the national Standards. However, the effluent discharged into the river was intensely colored and polluted (>1000 mg/L COD, >5000 μS/cm), emphasizing the need for legislation regulating COD, color and salinity, and for upgraded treatment methods worldwide for molasses wastewaters.

Concepts: Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Anaerobic digestion, Wastewater, Chemical oxygen demand, Activated sludge, Environmental engineering, Biochemical oxygen demand


Water shortages and the drive to recycle is increasing interest in reuse of reclaimed wastewater. Timely and cost-effective ways to detect fecal pollutants prior to reuse increases confidence of residents and neighbors concerned about reuse of reclaimed wastewater. The on-site wastewater treatment and reuse systems (OWTRS) used in this study include a septic tank, peat bioreactor, ClO(2) disinfection and land spray irrigation system. Bacteroides fragilis, Escherichiacoli and Enterococcus spp., were tested with immunomagnetic separation/ATP bioluminescence (IMS/ATP), qPCR and culture-based methods. The results displayed a 2-log reduction in fecal bacteria in the peat bioreactor and a 5-log reduction following chloride dioxide disinfection. The fecal bacteria levels measured by IMS/ATP correlated with qPCR results: HuBac 16S (R(2) = 0.903), Bf-group 16S (R(2) = 0.956), gyrB (R(2) = 0.673), and Ent 23S (R(2) = 0.724). This is the first study in which the newly developed human-specific IMS/ATP and previously developed IMS/ATP were applied for determining OWTRS efficiency. Results of the study revealed that IMS/ATP is a timely and cost-effective way to detect fecal contaminants, and results were validated with qPCR and culture based methods. The new IMS/ATP can also be applied broadly in the detection of human-originated fecal contamination.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Denitrification, Reclaimed water, Septic tank, Greywater