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The release of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent poses a significant threat to the ecology of surface water receptors, due to impacts on the hormonal control, sexual development, reproductive success and community structure of the indigenous aquatic organisms and associated wildlife. Among the EDCs commonly observed in WWTP effluent, the natural [e.g., 17??-estradiol (E2) and estrone (E1)] and synthetic [e.g., ethynylestradiol (EE2)] estrogens are particular concerns owing to their high endocrine reactivity in both in vitro and in vivo laboratory models. These reproductive hormones have been identified as the primary cause of estrogenic effects in wastewater effluent, with greater than 95% of the estrogen receptor agonist activity in effluent attributed to this contaminant group. The potentials for in situ biodegradation of 17??-estradiol (E2), estrone (E1), and testosterone (T) were investigated in three, hydrologically-distinct, WWTP-impacted streams in the United States. Relative differences in the mineralization of [4-14C] substrates were assessed in oxic microcosms containing sediment or water-only from locations upstream and downstream of the WWTP outfall in each system. Upstream samples provided insight into the biodegradative potential of sediment microbial communities that were not under the immediate impact of WWTP effluent. Upstream sediment from all three systems demonstrated significant mineralization of the "A" ring of E2, E1 and T, with the potential of T biodegradation consistently greater than of E2 and no systematic difference in the potentials of E2 and E1. Downstream samples provided insight into the impacts of effluent on reproductive hormone biodegradation. Significant "A" ring mineralization was also observed in downstream sediment, with the potentials for E1 and T mineralization being substantially depressed relative to upstream samples. In marked contrast, the potentials for E2 mineralization immediately downstream of the WWTP outfalls were more than double that of upstream samples. E2 mineralization was also observed in water, albeit at insufficient rate to prevent substantial downstream transport in the water column. The results of this study indicate that, in combination with sediment sorption processes which effectively scavenge hydrophobic contaminants from the water column and immobilize them in the vicinity of the WWTP outfall, aerobic biodegradation of reproductive hormones can be an environmentally important mechanism for nonconservative (destructive) attenuation of hormonal endocrine disruptors in effluent-impacted streams.
Additional Publication Details
Biodegradation of 17??-estradiol, estrone, and testosterone in stream sediments
10th International In Situ and On-Site Bioremediation Symposium, In Situ and On-Site Bioremediation-2009