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Environmental Engineering Research 2021;26(3): 200153 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4491/eer.2020.153
How should ecohazard of micropollutants in wastewater be gauged? Using bioassays to profile alternative tertiary treatments
Matteo Papa1,2  , Lidia Paredes1, Donatella Feretti3,6, Gaia Viola3, Giovanna Mazzoleni4,6, Nathalie Steimberg4,6, Roberta Pedrazzani5,6, Juan Lema1, Francisco Omil1, and Marta Carballa1
1Department of Chemical Engineering, Institute of Technology, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Rua Lope Gomez de Marzoa, E-15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain
2Department of Civil, Environmental, Architectural Engineering and Mathematics, University of Brescia, via Branze 43, I-25123 Brescia, Italy
3Department of Medical and Surgical Specialties, Radiological Sciences and Public Health, University of Brescia, Viale Europa 11, I-25123 Brescia, Italy
4Department of Clinical & Experimental Sciences, University of Brescia, viale Europa 11, I-25123 Brescia, Italy
5Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Brescia, via Branze 38, I-25123 Brescia, Italy
6Brescia University Research Center “Integrated Models for Prevention and Protection in Environmental and Occupational Health” (MISTRAL), Italy
Received: March 29, 2020;  Accepted: July 20, 2020.
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ABSTRACT
The research on emerging pollutants in wastewater has become a worldwide issue of increasing environmental concern, especially considering the growing interest in wastewater reuse. However, the latter implies additional post-treatment after the conventional activated sludge processes, in order to produce a safer effluent. Our work aimed at determining the efficiency of reducing the toxicity associated with organic micropollutants (OMPs) in secondary wastewater effluents, using 3 different post-treatment technologies (granular activated carbon (GAC), sand biofiltration and UV irradiation): in particular, target chemical analysis of the OMPs most commonly founded in wastewater was coupled with effect-based assays (estrogenicity and mutagenicity). While chemical analysis assessed satisfactory performances for all 3 technologies in the abatement of selected OMPs, biological assays evidenced another perspective: both GAC and sand biofilters were significantly able to make the estrogenic load plummet; however, the UV system was ineffective in estrogenicity abatement, and its effluent exhibited also a slight mutagenicity, likely due to photo-transformation by-products. These results indicate that a synergistic combination of chemical analysis and biological assays can drive to a proper gauging of post-treatment technologies, taking into account not only the removal of OMPs, but also their overall toxicity.
Keywords: Estrogenicity | Granular activated carbon | Mutagenicity | Organic micropollutants | Sand filtration | UV irradiation
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