Seasonal variation in the occurrence of pharmaceuticals in effluents from a sewage treatment plant and in the recipient water

  • Vieno N
  • Tuhkanen T
  • Kronberg L
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The occurrence of five pharmaceuticals (ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen,
diclofenac, and bezafibrate) in the influent and effluent water of
a sewage treatment plant (STP) in the recipient river water and in
a drinking water treatment plant (DWTP) located downstream from the
STP was followed during three seasons: winter, spring, and summer.
In the STP, the elimination of the pharmaceuticals decreased significantly
(an average of 25% compared to spring and summer) in wintertime leading
to increased concentrations of pharmaceuticals in the effluent water.
The total concentration of all the studied pharmaceuticals in the
effluent water was 3-5 times higher in wintertime (about 2500 ng
L-1) than during the other seasons (about 500-900 ng L-1). Accordingly,
the highest concentrations (up to 129 ng L-1) in the recipient river
were measured in the wintertime. Pharmaceuticals were carried longer
distances downstream from the STP when the river was covered by ice
and snow. During a drastic increase in water flow rate (i.e., during
snowmelting), a fast transportation of the pharmaceuticals was observed.
The DWTP located downstream from the STP produced water that contained
about 8 ng L-1 of ibuprofen and ketoprofen in the winter sample,
whereas in spring and summer the studied pharmaceuticals could not
be detected in the drinking water. The results show that cold seasons
in boreal areas can severely increase the environmental risk of pharmaceuticals
and the risk for contamination of drinking water.

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  • Niina M. Vieno

  • Tuula Tuhkanen

  • Leif Kronberg

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