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Research article2017Peer reviewedOpen access

Non-target screening and prioritization of potentially persistent, bioaccumulating and toxic domestic wastewater contaminants and their removal in on-site and large-scale sewage treatment plants

Blum, Kristin M.; Andersson, Patrik L.; Renman, Gunno; Ahrens, Lutz; Gros, Meritxell; Wiberg, Karin; Haglund, Peter


On-site sewage treatment facilities (OSSFs), which are used to reduce nutrient emissions in rural areas, were screened for anthropogenic compounds with two-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCxGC-MS). The detected compounds were prioritized based on their persistence, bioaccumulation, ecotoxicity, removal efficiency, and concentrations. This comprehensive prioritization strategy, which was used for the first time on OSSF samples, ranked galaxolide, a-tocopheryl acetate, octocrylene, 2,4,7,9-tetramethyl-5-decyn-4,7-diol, several chlorinated organophosphorus flame retardants and linear alkyl benzenes as the most relevant compounds being emitted from OSSFs. Twenty-six target analytes were then selected for further removal efficiency analysis, including compounds from the priority list along with substances from the same chemical classes, and a few reference compounds. We found significantly better removal of two polar contaminants 2,4,7,9-tetramethyl-5-decyn-4,7-diol (p = 0.0003) and tris(2-butoxyethyl) phosphate (p = 0.005) in soil beds, a common type of OSSF in Sweden, compared with conventional sewage treatment plants. We also report median removal efficiencies in OSSFs for compounds not studied in this context before, viz. a-tocopheryl acetate (96%), benzophenone (83%), 2-(methylthio)benzothiazole (64%), 2,4,7,9-tetramethyl-5-decyn-4,7-diol (33%), and a range of organophosphorus flame retardants (19% to 98%). The environmental load of the top prioritized compounds in soil bed effluents were in the thousands of nanogram per liter range, viz. 2,4,7,9-tetramethyl-5-decyn-4,7-diol (3000 ng L-1), galaxolide (1400 ng L-1), octocrylene (1200 ng L-1), and alpha-tocopheryl acetate (660 ng L-1). (C) 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.


Two-dimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry; Non-target analysis; Ranking; Decentralized sewage treatment; Removal efficiencies; Organic micropollutants

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2017, Volume: 575, pages: 265-275