Impact of inorganic and organic pollutants from a Belgian wastewater treatment plant on adjacent surface and groundwaters

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Under the pressure of global droughts and water shortage, it is essential to evolve toward a sustainable and robust water system. One possible avenue is the maximum reuse of treated wastewater, but the quality of which determines its reuse. Therefore, inorganic (Cd, Pb, Cr, Ni, Cu, and As) and organic (xenoestrogens and polycyclic aromatic contaminants, PACs) contaminants were monthly monitored in an effluent of the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), the surrounding surface waters and the local groundwater in Belgium. Dissolved and particulate concentrations of inorganic contaminants in these water bodies were analyzed. In addition, Diffusive Gradients in Thin-films (DGT) was used in situ to obtain bioavailable metal fractions. In the WWTP effluent and surface waters, only Ni exceeds the Annual Average-Environmental Quality Standard (AA-EQS), while in the groundwater, dissolved As was the predominant element. Moreover, in the surface and effluent waters the highest lability degrees were observed for Cd and Ni. The concentrations of these metal species in the effluent water were lower than in the other water bodies. Micro-organic pollutants, xenoestrogens and PACs were analyzed by dual Estrogen and Aryl hydrocarbon Receptor - Chemical Activated LUciferase gene eXpression (ER & AhR-CALUX) assays. Since the annual averaged (AA) bioequivalent concentration of E2 (0.18 ng/L) is below the AA-EQS standard (0.4 ng/L), and the bioequivalent concentration of benzo[a]pyrene never exceeded the maximum admissible concentration (MAC), the reclamation and reuse of treated wastewater for groundwater replenishment and agricultural irrigation should pose no environmental problems, at least in a short-term.
Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's16
TijdschriftFrontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering
Nummer van het tijdschrift4
StatusPublished - 30 dec 2023

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