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Research article2017Peer reviewedOpen access

Impact of on-site, small and large scale wastewater treatment facilities on levels and fate of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, artificial sweeteners, pesticides, and perfluoroalkyl substances in recipient waters

Gago-Ferrero, Pablo; Gros, Meritxell; Ahrens, Lutz; Wiberg, Karin


One of the main risks associated with effluents from both wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and on-site sewage treatment facilities (OSSFs) is the release of micropollutants (MPs) in receiving water bodies. However, the impact of MPs present in the effluents of OSSFs in the aquatic environment has not been studied so far. The current study evaluates the impact of the effluents of OSSFs and small-to-large scale WWTPs on natural waters. The discharge of 74 MPs was assessed including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pesticides, artificial sweeteners and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). The sampling was carried out within a Swedish catchment and included three sites that are exclusively affected by OSSFs and other sites that are mainly affected by WWTPs or a mixture of sources (7 sites, 28 samples). Results show that although OSSFs serve a much smaller total number of people, the MPs emitted from OSSFs reached the aquatic environment in significant quantities (concentrations of >150 ng L-1 of Sigma MPs). The composition profiles for sites affected by WWTPs were similar and were dominated by sucralose (27% of the Sigma MPs), caffeine (27% of the Sigma MPs), lamotrigine (10% of the Sigma MPs), desvenlafaxine (5% of the Sigma MPs), and diclofenac (4% of the Sigma MPs). In contrast, the sites affected by OSSFs showed high variability, exhibiting a different profile from those affected by WWTPs and also from each other, demonstrating that OSSFs are not homogeneous sources of MPs. Some specific compounds, such as diethyltoluamide (DEET) and caffeine, were proportionally much more important at sites affected by OSSFs than at sites affected by WWTPs (representing a much higher percentage of the Sigma MPs in the OSSFs). In contrast, PFASs did not show high concentration variation among the different sampling sites and the composition profiles were relatively similar, indicating that these substances follow different routes of entry into the aquatic environment. (C) 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Micropollutants; On-site sewage treatment facilities (OSSFs); Wastewater; Pharmaceuticals; Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs); Seasonal variations

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2017, Volume: 601-602, pages: 1289-1297