Occurrence and fate of phthalate esters in full-scale domestic wastewater treatment plants and their impact on receiving waters along the Songhua River in China

Dawen Gao, Zhe Li, Zhidan Wen, Nanqi Ren
Chemosphere 2014, 95: 24-32
The occurrence and fate of six phthalates: dimethyl phthalate (DMP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and di-n-octyl phthalate (DOP) were investigated as phthalates passed through three full-scale wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) with different treatment processes, and ultimately into the recipient Songhua River water in Harbin (China). The six phthalates were detected in the majority of aqueous and solid samples, with DEHP being the most abundant compound. The overall removal efficiency of ΣPAEs in the Cyclic Activated Sludge Technology (CAST) process was over 72%, while both the A/O and A/A/O processes achieved approximately 30% removal. The better performance of the CAST process relative to the Anoxic/Oxic (A/O) and Anaerobic/Anoxic/Oxic (A/A/O) processes was attributed to the indoor-conditions of the CAST plants, which effectively maintained the temperature of the treatment system. The fate of PAEs within two different types of WWTPs (CAST and A/A/O) were assessed qualitatively using mass balances. The results suggested that PAEs removal resulted from both biotransformation and adsorption, of which the former was particularly significant in the CAST process, while the latter was more significant in the A/A/O process. Substantial levels of several PAEs were detected in the Songhua River, especially downstream of the WWTPs, which means that the discharge from WWTPs has a strong impact on the water quality of the Songhua River during cold winter conditions.

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