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Water Res. 2012 Oct 15;46(16):5174-84. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2012.06.024. Epub 2012 Jun 26.

Removal of trace organic chemicals in onsite wastewater soil treatment units: a laboratory experiment.

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NSF Engineering Research Center ReNUWIt, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO 80401-1887, USA.


Onsite wastewater treatment is used by 20% of residences in the United States. The ability of these systems, specifically soil treatment units (STUs), to attenuate trace organic chemicals (TOrCs) is not well understood. TOrCs released by STUs pose a potential risk to downstream groundwater and hydraulically-connected surface water that may be used as a drinking water source. A series of bench-scale experiments were conducted using sand columns to represent STUs and to evaluate the efficacy of TOrC attenuation as a function of hydraulic loading rate (1, 4, 8, 12, and 30 cm/day). Each hydraulic loading rate was examined using triplicate experimental columns. Columns were initially seeded with raw wastewater to establish a microbial community, after which they were fed with synthetic wastewater and spiked with 17 TOrCs, in four equal doses per day, to provide a consistent influent water quality. After an initial start-up phase, effluent from all columns consistently demonstrated >90% reductions in dissolved organic carbon and nearly complete (>85%) oxidation of ammonia to nitrate, comparable to the performance of field STUs. The results of this study suggest STUs are capable of attenuating many TOrCs present in domestic wastewater, but attenuation is compound-specific. A subset of TOrCs exhibited an inverse relationship with hydraulic loading rate and attenuation efficiency. Atenolol, cimetidine, and TCPP were more effectively attenuated over time in each experiment, suggesting that the microbial community evolved to a stage where these TOrCs were more effectively biotransformed. Aerobic conditions as compared to anaerobic conditions resulted in more efficient attenuation of acetaminophen and cimetidine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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