Behaviour of estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals in permeable carbonate sands

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Shepherd, BO, Erler, DV, Tait, DR, van Zwieten, L, Kimber, S & Eyre, D 2015, 'Behaviour of estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals in permeable carbonate sands', Environmental Science and Pollution Research, vol. 22, no. 15, pp. 11340-11348.

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The remediation of four estrogenic endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), ethinylestradiol (EE2) and estriol (E3), was measured in saturated and unsaturated carbonate sand-filled columns dosed with wastewater from a sewage treatment plant. The estrogen equivalency (EEQ) of inlet wastewater was 1.2 ng L−1 and was remediated to an EEQ of 0.5 ng L−1 through the unsaturated carbonate sand-filled columns. The high surface area of carbonate sand and associated high microbial activity may have assisted the degradation of these estrogens. The fully saturated sand columns showed an increase in total estrogenic potency with an EEQ of 2.4 ng L−1, which was double that of the inlet wastewater. There was a significant difference (P  < 0.05) in total estrogenic potency between aerobic and anaerobic columns. The breakdown of conjugated estrogens to estrogenic EDCs formed under long residence time and reducing conditions may have been responsible for the increase in the fully saturated columns. This may also be explained by the desorption of previously sorbed estrogenic EDCs. The effect of additional filter materials, such as basalt sediment and coconut fibre, on estrogenic EDC reduction was also tested. None of these amendments provided improvements in estrogen remediation relative to the unamended unsaturated carbonate sand columns. Aerobic carbonate sand filters have good potential to be used as on-site wastewater treatment systems for the reduction of estrogenic EDCs. However, the use of fully saturated sand filters, which are used to promote denitrification, and the loss of nitrogen as N2 were shown to cause an increase in EEQ. The potential for the accumulation of estrogenic EDCs under anaerobic conditions needs to be considered when designing on-site sand filtration systems required to reduce nitrogen. Furthermore, the accumulation of estrogens under anaerobic conditions such as under soil absorption systems or leachate fields has the potential to contaminate groundwater especially when the water table levels fluctuate.