Evidence that watershed nutrient management practices effectively reduce estrogens in environmental waters

Science of the Total Environment
By: , and 



We evaluate the impacts of different nutrient management strategies on the potential for co-managing estrogens and nutrients in environmental waters of the Potomac watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. These potential co-management approaches represent agricultural and urban runoff, wastewater treatment plant effluent, and combined sewer overflow replacements. Twelve estrogenic compounds and their metabolites were analysed by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. Estrogenic activity (E2Eq) was measured by in vitro bioassay. We detected estrone E1 (0.05–6.97 ng L−1) and estriol E3 (below detection-8.13 ng L−1) and one conjugated estrogen (estrone-3-sulfate E1-3S; below detection-8.13 ng L−1). E1 was widely distributed and positively correlated with E2Eq, water temperature, and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Among nonpoint sources, E2Eq, and concentrations of E1, soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) and total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) decreased by 51–61%, 77–82%, 62–64%, 4–16% in restored urban and agricultural streams with best management practices (BMPs) relative to unrestored streams without BMPs. In a wastewater treatment plant (Blue Plains WWTP), >94% of E1, E1-3S, E3, E2Eq and TDN were removed while SRP increased by 305% during nitrification/denitrification as a part of advanced wastewater treatment. Consequently, E1 and TDN concentrations in WWTP effluents were comparable or even lower than those observed in the receiving stream or river waters, and the effects of wastewater discharges on downstream E1 and TDN concentrations were minor. Highest E2Eq value and concentrations of E1, E3, and TDN were detected in combined sewer overflow (CSO). This study suggests that WWTP upgrades with biological nutrient removal, CSO management, and certain agricultural and urban BMPs for nutrient controls have the potential to remove estrogens from point and nonpoint sources along with other contaminants in streams and rivers.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Evidence that watershed nutrient management practices effectively reduce estrogens in environmental waters
Series title Science of the Total Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143904
Volume 758
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Leetown Science Center
Description 143904, 14 p.
Country United States
State Maryland
Other Geospatial Potomac watershed
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