Fate of steroid estrogens in Australian inland and coastal wastewater treatment plants

O. Braga, G. A. Smythe, Andrea Schaefer, A. J. Feitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A comparison of estrone (E1), 17b-estradiol (E2) and 17a-ethinylestradiol (EE2) removal at a coastal enhanced primary and inland advanced sewage treatment plant (STP) is reported. The average concentration of estrogens in the raw sewage is similar to reports in other studies. The sequential batch reactor at the advanced STP removed on average 85% of the incoming E1 and 96% of the E2. Further removal was observed during later microfiltration with the estrogen concentration below detection (<0.1 ng.L-1) after reverse osmosis. Some 6% of the influent E1+E2 was removed in the waste activated sludge. The detection of EE2 in the waste activated sludge (0.42 ng.g-1 solids dry weight), undetectable in the raw sewage, suggests that EE2 is resistant to biological treatment in the sequential batch reactor and is primarily removed due to sorption. Little estrogen removal was observed at the enhanced primary with only 7% of E1 and 0% of E2 removed. Low removal is expected based on the degree of estrogens partitioning in the organic fraction given the relatively low solids concentration, but surprisingly, some 43% of E2, 24% of E1 and 100% of EE2 remains associated with the solids fraction in the treated effluent. Further research is necessary to determine whether the low level of estrogen removal for the coastal treatment plant will adversely affect the receiving marine environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3351-3385
Number of pages35
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume39
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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