Environmental Health - Toxic Substances
Household Chemicals and Drugs Found in Biosolids from Wastewater Treatment Plants
Biosolids are the sludge generated by the treatment of sewage at wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). WWTPs produce a variety of biosolids products for agricultural, landscape, and home use. Depicted in the diagram is an activated sludge tank at a wastewater treatment plant (upper left) and a holding area for biosolids (lower right).
(The two photos are not from the same facility.)
Biosolids, the treated sludge generated by the treatment of sewage at wastewater treatment plants, is something that most people don't think about as they flush everyday chemicals and drugs down the drain. However, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists found that biosolids contain relatively high concentrations (hundreds of milligrams per kilogram) of the active ingredients commonly found in a variety of household products and drugs.
Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the United States generate approximately
A scientist (now with Colorado State University-Pueblo) preparing samples of biosolids for extraction using accelerated solvent extraction. The samples were analyzed for a broad suite of emerging contaminants.
This is the first comprehensive examination of biosolids, and the results indicate that biosolids have high concentrations of these emerging contaminants compared to treated liquid wastewater effluent. What is not known at present is the transport, fate, and potential ecological effects of these contaminants once biosolids are applied to agricultural fields, garden plots, and landscaped plants and shrubs.
Kinney, C.A., Furlong, E.T., Zaugg, S.D., Burkhardt, M.R., Werner, S.L., Cahill, J.D., and Jorgensen, G.R., 2006, Survey of organic wastewater contaminants in biosolids destined for land application: Environmental Science and Technology, v. 40, no. 23, p. 7207-7215, doi:10.1021/es0603406.