Survey of organic wastewater contaminants in biosolids destined for land application

Environmental Science & Technology
By: , and 



In this study, the presence, composition, and concentrations of organic wastewater contaminants (OWCs) were determined in solid materials produced during wastewater treatment. This study was undertaken to evaluate the potential of these solids, collectively referred to as biosolids, as a source of OWCs to soil and water in contact with soil. Nine different biosolid products, produced by municipal wastewater treatment plants in seven different states, were analyzed for 87 different OWCs. Fifty-five of the OWCs were detected in at least one biosolid product. The 87 different OWCs represent a diverse cross section of emerging organic contaminants that enter wastewater treatment plants and may be discharged without being completely metabolized or degraded. A minimum of 30 and a maximum of 45 OWCs were detected in any one biosolid. The biosolids used in this study are produced by several production methods, and the plants they originate from have differing population demographics, yet the percent composition of total OWC content, and of the most common OWCs, typically did not vary greatly between the biosolids tested. The summed OWC content ranged from 64 to 1811 mg/kg dry weight. Six biosolids were collected twice, 3−18 months apart, and the total OWC content of each biosolid varied by less than a factor of 2. These results indicate that the biosolids investigated in this study have OWC compositions and concentrations that are more similar than different and that biosolids are highly enriched in OWCs (as mass-normalized concentrations) when compared to effluents or effluent-impacted water. These results demonstrate the need to better describe the composition and fate of OWCs in biosolids since about 50% of biosolids are land applied and thus become a potentially ubiquitous nonpoint source of OWCs into the environment.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Survey of organic wastewater contaminants in biosolids destined for land application
Series title Environmental Science & Technology
DOI 10.1021/es0603406
Volume 40
Issue 23
Year Published 2006
Language English
Publisher ACS
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 9 p.
First page 7207
Last page 7215
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