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Environ Sci Technol. 2005 May 1;39(9):3351-8.

Fate of steroid estrogens in Australian inland and coastal wastewater treatment plants.

Author information

  • 1Bioanalytical Mass Spectrometry Facility, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney New South Wales 2052, Australia.

Erratum in

  • Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Sep 15;39(18):7344.


A comparison of estrone (E1), 17beta-estradiol (E2), and 17alpha-ethinylestradiol (EE2) removal at a coastal enhanced primary and inland advanced sewage treatment plant (STP) is reported. The average concentration of estrogens in the raw sewage is similar to that reported in other studies. The sequential batch reactor at the advanced STP removed on average 85% of the incoming E1 and 96% of the E2. Further removal was observed during later microfiltration with the estrogen concentration below detection (<0.1 ng x L(-1)) after reverse osmosis. Some 6% of the influent E1+E2 was removed in the waste activated sludge. The detection of EE2 in the waste activated sludge (0.42 ng x g(-1) solids dry weight), undetectable in the raw sewage, suggests that EE2 is resistant to biological treatment in the sequential batch reactor and is primarily removed due to sorption. Little estrogen removal was observed at the enhanced primary with only 7% of E1 and 0% of E2 removed. Low removal is expected based on the degree of estrogens partitioning in the organic fraction given the relatively low solids concentration, but surprisingly, some 43% of E2, 24% of E1, and 100% of EE2 remains associated with the solids fraction in the treated effluent. Further research is necessary to determine whether the low level of estrogen removal for the coastal treatment plant will adversely affect the receiving marine environment.

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