Conventional wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) have a limited capacity to eliminate micropollutants. One option to improve this is tertiary treatment. Accordingly, the WWTP Eriskirch at the German river Schussen has been upgraded with different combinations of ozonation, sand, and granulated activated carbon filtration. In this study, the removal of endocrine and genotoxic effects in vitro and reproductive toxicity in vivo was assessed in a 2-year long-term monitoring. All experiments were performed with aqueous and solid-phase extracted water samples. Untreated wastewater affected several endocrine endpoints in reporter gene assays. The conventional treatment removed the estrogenic and androgenic activity by 77 and 95 %, respectively. Nevertheless, high anti-estrogenic activities and reproductive toxicity persisted. All advanced treatment technologies further reduced the estrogenic activities by additional 69–86 % compared to conventional treatment, resulting in a complete removal of up to 97 %. In the Ames assay, we detected an ozone-induced mutagenicity, which was removed by subsequent filtration. This demonstrates that a post treatment to ozonation is needed to minimize toxic oxidative transformation products. In the reproduction test with the mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum, a decreased number of embryos was observed for all wastewater samples. This indicates that reproductive toxicants were eliminated by neither the conventional nor the advanced treatment. Furthermore, aqueous samples showed higher anti-estrogenic and reproductive toxicity than extracted samples, indicating that the causative compounds are not extractable or were lost during extraction. This underlines the importance of the adequate handling of wastewater samples. Taken together, this study demonstrates that combinations of multiple advanced technologies reduce endocrine effects in vitro. However, they did not remove in vitro anti-estrogenicity and in vivo reproductive toxicity. This implies that a further optimization of advanced wastewater treatment is needed that goes beyond combining available technologies.
Environmental Science and Pollution Research – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 6, 2016
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