The removal and fate of several indicator endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) at two large municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Adelaide South Australia was investigated. Non-estrogens included the non-ionic surfactant breakdown compounds nonyl phenol mono- and di-ethoxylates, 4-t-octylphenol and 4-nonyl phenol; and, the plasticizer bisphenol A. Estrogens included 17β-estradiol; estrone; and, 17α-ethynylestradiol. Effluent from Bolivar WWTP is polished using stabilisation lagoons followed by coagulation, dissolved air flotation/filtration and chlorination for non-potable reuse. Biosolids from both plants is applied to agricultural land as a soil conditioner. Non-estrogen indicator EDCs were detected at the highest concentration in sewage, effluent and sludge but estrogen indicator EDCs contributed the greatest potential for estrogenicity. The fate of indicator EDCs at various treatment stages is complex and includes biochemical modification/transformation and/or partitioning to either solid or liquid phases. Activated sludge treatment was an important removal barrier achieving moderate—high removal of predicted and YES (a yeast screen assay) measured estrogen equivalent values (EEq). Combined polishing treatment achieved high removal of candidate EDCs (97%). Mass balance indicates that the largest source of estrogenicity discharged from both WWTPs investigated is digested sludge which accounts for 18 and 22% respectively of the combined predicted and YES measured EEq measured in sewage at the two WWTPs.
Keywords: endocrine disrupting compounds, reuse, treatment efficiency, wastewater treatment, xenoestrogens