Assessing the protection gap for mobile and persistent chemicals during advanced water treatment – A study in a drinking water production and wastewater treatment plant


Persistent and mobile (PM) chemicals spread quickly in the water cycle and can reach drinking water. If these chemicals are also toxic (PMT) they may pose a threat to the aquatic environment and drinking water alike, and thus measures to prevent their spread are necessary. In this study, nontarget screening and cell-based toxicity tests after a polarity-based fractionation into polar and non-polar chemicals are utilized to assess and compare the effectiveness of ozonation and filtration through activated carbon in a wastewater treatment and drinking water production plant. Especially during wastewater treatment, differences in removal efficiency were evident. While median areas of non-polar features were reduced by a factor of 270, median areas for polar chemicals were only reduced by a factor of 4. Polar features showed significantly higher areas than their non-polar counterparts in wastewater treatment plant effluent and finished drinking water, implying a protection gap for these chemicals. Toxicity tests revealed higher initial toxicities (especially oxidative stress and estrogenic activity) for the non-polar fraction, but also showed a more pronounced decrease during treatment. Generally, the toxicity of the effluent was low for both fractions. Combined, these results imply a less effective removal but also a lower toxicity of polar chemicals. The behaviour of features during advanced waste and drinking water treatment was used to classify them as either PM chemicals or mobile transformation products (M-TPs). A suspect screening of the 476 highest intensity PM chemicals and M-TPs in 57 environmental and tap water samples showed high frequencies of detection (median >80%), which indicates the wide distribution of these chemicals in the aquatic environment and thus supports the chosen classification approach and the more generally applicability of obtained insights.

Authors: Grete Gollong, Isabelle J Neuwald, Jochen Kuckelkorn, Ralf Junek, Daniel Zahn
; Full Source: Water research 2022 Jul 10;221:118847. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2022.118847.