Using integrative samplers to estimate the removal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in a WWTP and by soil aquifer treatment enhanced with a reactive barrier.


The need and availability of freshwater is a major environmental issue, aggravated by climate change. It is necessary to find alternative sources of freshwater. Wastewater could represent a valid option but requires extensive treatment to remove wastewater-borne contaminants, such as contaminants of emerging concern (CECs). It is urgent to develop not only sustainable and effective wastewater treatment techniques, but also water quality assessment methods. In this study, we used polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS) to investigate the presence and abatement of contaminants in an urban wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and in soil aquifer treatment (SAT) systems (a conventional one and one enhanced with a reactive barrier). This approach allowed us to overcome inter-day and intraday variability of the wastewater composition. Passive sampler extracts were analyzed to investigate contamination from 56 pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Data from the POCIS were used to estimate PPCPs' removal efficiency along the WWTP and the SAT systems. A total of 31 compounds, out of the 56 investigated, were detected in the WWTP influent. Removal rates along WWTP were highly variable (16-100 %), with benzophenone-3, benzophenone-1, parabens, ciprofloxacin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen as the most effectively removed chemicals. The two SAT systems yielded much higher elimination rates than those achieved through the primary and secondary treatments together. The SAT system that integrated a reactive barrier, based on sustainable materials to promote enhanced elimination of CECs, was significantly more efficient than the conventional one. The removal of the recalcitrant carbamazepine and its epoxy- metabolite was especially remarkable in this SAT, with removal rates between 69–81 % and 63–70 %, respectively.

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