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Human Pharmaceuticals, Antioxidants, and Plasticizers in Wastewater Treatment Plant and Water Reclamation Plant Effluents

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The primary objective of this study was to determine the presence of unregulated organic chemicals in reclaimed water using complementary targeted and broad spectrum approaches. Eleven of 12 targeted human pharmaceuticals, antioxidants, and plasticizers, and 27 tentatively identified non-target organic chemicals, were present in secondary effluent entering tertiary treatment trains at a wastewater treatment plant and two water reclamation facilities. The removal of these compounds by three different tertiary treatment trains was investigated: coagulant-assisted granular media filtration (California Title-22 water, 22 CCR §§60301-60357; Barclay [2006]), lime clarification/reverse osmosis (lime/RO), and microfiltration-reverse osmosis (MF/RO). Carbamazepine, clofibric acid, gemfibrozil, ibuprofen, p-toluenesulfonamide, caffeine, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and N-butyl benzenesulfonamide ( N-BBSA) were present at low to high nanogram-per-liter levels in Title 22 water. The lime/RO product waters contained lower concentrations of clofibric acid, ibuprofen, caffeine, BHA, and N-BBSA (<10 to 71 ng/L) than their Title 22 counterparts. The MF/RO treatment reduced concentrations to levels below their detection limits, although BHT was present in MF/RO product water from one facility. The presence of the target analytes in two surface waters used as raw drinking water sources and a recharged groundwater was also examined. Surface waters used as raw drinking water sources contained caffeine, BHA, BHT, and N-BBSA, while recharged groundwater contained BHT, BHA, and N-BBSA. Nontarget compounds in recharged groundwater appeared to be attenuated with increased residence time in the aquifer.

Keywords: antioxidant; personal care product ingredient; pharmaceutical; plasticizer; reclaimed water; wastewater

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 2007

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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