Inputs of fossil carbon from wastewater treatment plants to U.S. Rivers and oceans

Environmental Science & Technology
By: , and 



Every day more than 500 million cubic meters of treated wastewater are discharged into rivers, estuaries, and oceans, an amount slightly less than the average flow of the Danube River. Typically, wastewaters have high organic carbon (OC) concentrations and represent a large fraction of total river flow and a higher fraction of river OC in densely populated watersheds. Here, we report the first direct measurements of radiocarbon (14C) in municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent. The radiocarbon ages of particulate and dissolved organic carbon (POC and DOC) in effluent are old and relatively uniform across a range of WWTPs in New York and Connecticut. Wastewater DOC has a mean radiocarbon age of 1630 ?? 500 years B.P. and a mean ??13C of -26.0 ?? 1???. Mass balance calculations indicate that 25% of wastewater DOC is fossil carbon, which is likely derived from petroleumbased household products such as detergents and pharmaceuticals. Thesefindings warrant reevaluation of the "apparent age" of riverine DOC, the total flux of petroleum carbon to U.S. oceans, and OC source assignments in waters impacted by sewage. ?? 2009 American Chemical Society.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Inputs of fossil carbon from wastewater treatment plants to U.S. Rivers and oceans
Series title Environmental Science & Technology
DOI 10.1021/es9004043
Volume 43
Issue 15
Year Published 2009
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Environmental Science and Technology
First page 5647
Last page 5651
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details