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Free Synthetic and Natural Estrogen Hormones in Influent and Effluent of Three Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants

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Three municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in southeastern Pennsylvania were sampled to determine the presence and concentrations of 12 natural and synthetic estrogen hormones in the wastewater influent and effluent. The target estrogens were 17α-estradiol, estrone, estriol, equilin, 17α-dihydroequilin, 17β-estradiol, 17α-ethinyl estradiol, gestodene, norgestrel, levonorgestrel, medrogestone, and trimegestone. One WWTP uses a biofilm reactor (packed-bed trickling filter), and the other two use suspended-growth media (continuously stirred activated sludge reactor and sequential batch reactor). Estrone was detected in all the three plants; estriol and estradiol were detected at two WWTPs; and 17 α-dihydroequilin and 17 α-ethinyl estradiol were detected at one WWTP. The concentration of estrogens in the influent and effluent of the three treatment plants ranged from 1.2 to 259 ng/L and 0.5 to 49 ng/L, respectively. The percentage removal of estrogens from the aqueous phase ranged from 41 to 99%, except in the case of 17α-dihydroequilin; the removal of 17α-dihydroequilin was negligible. The suspended-growth media systems showed higher removal efficiencies for estrogens than the biofilm system. The analytical method uses a Varian C-18 solid-phase extraction (Varian Inc., Palo Alto, California), followed by a derivatization with bis(trimethylsilyl)trifluoroacetamide. The detection limits for the estrogen compounds ranged from 0.1 to 10 ng/L using a sample size of 1 L. The method recoveries ranged from 71 to 120%, and the relative standard deviation ranged from 6 to 14% for all the hormones.

Keywords: estrogens; gas chromatograph–mass spectrometry; hormone; natural estrogens; synthetic estrogens; wastewater; wastewater treatment plant

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2007-09-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    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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