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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Novel metabolomic method to assess the effect-based removal efficiency of advanced wastewater treatment techniques

Spath, Jana; Nording, Malin; Lindberg, Richard; Brodin, Tomas; Jansson, Stina; Yang, Jun; Wan, Debin; Hammock, Bruce; Fick, Jerker


There are conflicting findings on the toxicity of effluent from wastewater treatment plants, and only limited possibilities for assessing the effect-based removal efficiency (EBRE) of different treatment techniques. We describe a metabolomics approach to detect perturbations in fatty acid catabolic pathways as a proxy for biological effects. Metabolites in three fatty acid pathways were analysed in a common damselfly larva (Coenagrion hastulatum) by liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. The larvae were exposed for one week to either conventionally treated effluent (activated sludge treatment), effluent additionally treated with ozone, or effluent additionally treated with biochar filtration, and results were compared with those from tap water control exposure. Five lipoxygenase-derived oxylipins (9,10,13-TriHOME, 9,12,13-TriHOME, 9-HODE, 9-HOTrE, and 13-HOTrE) decreased in response to conventionally treated effluent exposure. By using an additional treatment step, oxylipin levels were restored with exception of 9,10,13-TriHOME (ozonated effluent), and 9-HOTrE and 13-HOTrE (effluent filtered with biochar). Thus, exposure to wastewater effluent affected fatty acid metabolite levels in damselfly larvae, and a subset of the analysed metabolites may serve as indicators for biological effects in biota in response to effluent exposure. To that effect, our findings suggest a new metabolomics protocol for assessing EBRE.


Anthropogenic pollutants; wastewater treatment; metabolomics; metabolites; effect-based removal efficiencies (EBREs); common damselfly larvae; Coenagrion hastulatum

Published in

Environmental Chemistry
2020, volume: 17, number: 1, pages: 1-5

Authors' information

Spath, Jana
Umeå University
Nording, Malin
Umea University
Lindberg, Richard
Umea University
Umeå University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies
Jansson, Stina
Umea University
Yang, Jun
University of California Davis
Wan, Debin
University of California Davis
Hammock, Bruce
University of California Davis
Fick, Jerker
Umeå University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water

UKÄ Subject classification

Water Treatment

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