A study was conducted in which the effluent at four small to medium sized sewage treatment plants (STP) in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany was monitored for three pharmaceutical compounds (carbamazepine, diclofenac, metoprolol) over a period of four years. Grab sampling and auto sampling campaigns were accomplished with respect to various weather conditions in the catchment area. Flow volumes and hydraulic retention times (HRT) from various sampling dates which provide information on processes causing emission changes were additionally taken into account. Monitoring results showed that concentration scattering in the effluent is related to HRT in the sewage treatment plants. Dilution effects following rain events in the catchment area were analysed for the three investigated substances. Short-term emission changes explained by dilution only could be well determined by the mathematical relation between discharge and concentration, and for carbamazepine to be solely determined by the dilution effects at all HRTs. For metoprolol, a clear decrease in concentrations was observed at HRTs above 80 h, and a significant contribution of biodegradation was supported by independent biodegradation tests. For three out of the four STPs, a decrease in concentrations of diclofenac was observed at hydraulic retention times above 80 h, indicating removal, whereas the relationship between concentration and HRT of the other STP could be explained by dilution only. The study shows that emissions can vary with weather conditions, hampering the assessment of emissions and estimation of concentrations in surface waters from generic removal rates only. Furthermore, it illustrates the importance of HRT of rather stable substances in wastewater treatment.
Environmental Pollution – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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