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Unveiling intricate transformation pathways of emerging contaminants during wastewater treatment processes through simplified network analysis.

Water Research 2024 Februrary 22
As the key stage for purifying wastewater, elimination of emerging contaminants (ECs) is found to be fairly low in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). However, less knowledge is obtained regarding the transformation pathways between various chemical structures of ECs under different treatment processes. This study unveiled the transformation pathways of ECs with different structures in 15 WWTPs distributed across China by simplified network analysis (SNA) we proposed. After treatment, the molecular weight of the whole component of wastewater decreased and the hydrophilicity increased. There are significant differences in the structure of eliminated, consistent and formed pollutants. Amino acids, peptides, and analogues (AAPAs) were detected most frequently and most removable. Benzenoids were refractory. Triazoles were often produced. The high-frequency reactions in different WWTPs were similar, (de)methylation and dehydration occurred most frequently. Different biological treatment processes performed similarly, while some advanced treatment processes differed, such as a significant increase of -13.976 (2HO reaction) paired mass distances (PMDs) in the chlorine alone process. Further, the common structural transformation was uncovered. 4 anti-hypertensive drugs, including irbesartan, valsartan, olmesartan, and losartan, were identified, along with 22 transformation products (TPs) of them. OH2 and H2 O PMDs occurred most frequently and in 80.81 % of the parent-transformation product pairs, the intensity of the product was higher than parent in effluents, whose risk should be considered in future assessment activity. Together our results provide a macrography perspective on the transformation processes of ECs in WWTPs. In the future, selectively adopting wastewater treatment technology according to structures is conductive for eliminating recalcitrant ECs in WWTPs.

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