Organic contaminants in onsite wastewater treatment systems
Wastewater from thirty onsite wastewater treatment systems was sampled during a reconnaissance field study to quantify bulk parameters and the occurrence of organic wastewater contaminants including endocrine disrupting compounds in treatment systems representing a variety of wastewater sources and treatment processes and their receiving environments. Bulk parameters ranged in concentrations representative of the wide variety of wastewater sources (residential vs. non-residential). Organic contaminants such as sterols, surfactant metabolites, antimicrobial agents, stimulants, metal-chelating agents, and other consumer product chemicals, measured by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry were detected frequently in onsite system wastewater. Wastewater composition was unique between source type likely due to differences in source water and chemical usage. Removal efficiencies varied by engineered treatment type and physicochemical properties of the contaminant, resulting in discharge to the soil treatment unit at ecotoxicologically-relevant concentrations. Organic wastewater contaminants were detected less frequently and at lower concentrations in onsite system receiving environments. Understanding the occurrence and fate of organic wastewater contaminants in onsite wastewater treatment systems will aid in minimizing risk to ecological and human health.