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Effect of wastewater treatment facility closure on endocrine disrupting chemicals in a Coastal Plain stream

March 2, 2016

Wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) closures are rare environmental remediation events; offering unique insight into contaminant persistence, long-term wastewater impacts, and ecosystem recovery processes. The U.S. Geological Survey assessed the fate of select endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) in surface water and streambed sediment one year before and one year after closure of a long-term WWTF located within the Spirit Creek watershed at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Sample sites included a WWTF-effluent control located upstream from the outfall, three downstream effluent-impacted sites located between the outfall and Spirit Lake, and one downstream from the lake's outfall. Prior to closure, the 2.2-km stream segment downstream from the WWTF outfall was characterized by EDC concentrations significantly higher (α = 0.05) than at the control site; indicating substantial downstream transport and limited in-stream attenuation of EDC, including pharmaceuticals, estrogens, alkylphenol ethoxylate (APE) metabolites, and organophosphate flame retardants (OPFR). Wastewater-derived pharmaceutical, APE metabolites, and OPFR compounds were also detected in the outflow of Spirit Lake, indicating the potential for EDC transport to aquatic ecosystems downstream of Fort Gordon under effluent discharge conditions. After the WWTF closure, no significant differences in concentrations or numbers of detected EDC compounds were observed between control and downstream locations. The results indicated EDC pseudo-persistence under preclosure, continuous supply conditions, with rapid attenuation following WWTF closure. Low concentrations of EDC at the control site throughout the study and comparable concentrations in downstream locations after WWTF closure indicated additional, continuing, upstream contaminant sources within the Spirit Creek watershed. 

Publication Year 2016
Title Effect of wastewater treatment facility closure on endocrine disrupting chemicals in a Coastal Plain stream
DOI 10.1002/rem.21455
Authors Paul M. Bradley, Celeste A. Journey, Jimmy M. Clark
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Remediation Journal
Index ID 70169107
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program; South Atlantic Water Science Center