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Occurrence and fate of organic contaminants during onsite wastewater treatment

January 1, 2006

Onsite wastewater treatment systems serve approximately 25% of the U.S. population. However, little is known regarding the occurrence and fate of organic wastewater contaminants (OWCs), including endocrine disrupting compounds, during onsite treatment. A range of OWCs including surfactant metabolites, steroids, stimulants, metal-chelating agents, disinfectants, antimicrobial agents, and pharmaceutical compounds was quantified in wastewater from 30 onsite treatment systems in Summit and Jefferson Counties, CO. The onsite systems represent a range of residential and nonresidential sources. Eighty eight percent of the 24 target compounds were detected in one or more samples, and several compounds were detected in every wastewater sampled. The wastewater matrices were complex and showed unique differences between source types due to differences in water and consumer product use. Nonresidential sources generally had more OWCs at higher concentrations than residential sources. Additional aerobic biofilter-based treatment beyond the traditional anaerobic tank-based treatment enhanced removal for many OWCs. Removal mechanisms included volatilization, biotransformation, and sorption with efficiencies from <1% to >99% depending on treatment type and physico chemical properties of the compound. Even with high removal rates during confined unit onsite treatment, OWCs are discharged to soil dispersal units at loadings up to 20 mg/m2/d, emphasizing the importance of understanding removal mechanisms and efficiencies in onsite treatment systems that discharge to the soil and water environments.

Publication Year 2006
Title Occurrence and fate of organic contaminants during onsite wastewater treatment
DOI 10.1021/es0605117
Authors K.E. Conn, L. B. Barber, G.K. Brown, R.L. Siegrist
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology
Index ID 70028636
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program