Occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern in the Eerste River, South Africa: Towards the optimisation of an urban water profiling approach for public- and ecological health risk characterisation

E. Archer, E. Holton, J. Fidal, B. Kasprzyk-Hordern, A. Carstens, L. Brocker, T. R. Kjeldsen, G. M. Wolfaardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The study evaluated the presence and fate of various contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) from a South African wastewater treatment works (WWTW) and surface waters located around an urban setting. A total of 45 CECs were quantified from nine sampling locations over an 11-month period. Daily loads (g/day) of the target analytes in the WWTW showed persistence of some CECs, along with population-normalised daily loads (mg/day/1000inh) of pharmaceuticals and drugs of abuse (DOA) that were estimated for the first time in the study area. Multiple chemical markers were recorded in river water located upstream of the WWTW discharge throughout the study period, suggesting a high degree of diffuse pollution from urban communities in the study area that are not connected to sewage networks or where sanitation services are limited. The potential of using defined surface water locations to perform community-wide substance use profiling for non-sewered communities was also explored. Environmental risk characterisation for the WWTW effluent and surface waters throughout the study period provided multiple risk quotients (RQ) for the target list of CECs spanning over various sentinel trophic levels. High risk profiles (RQ > 1.0) with a frequency of exceedance (FoE) larger than 75 % were recorded for several CECs in both WWTW effluent and surface water locations that suggest potential long-term ecological health risk impacts of pollution hotspot areas in the river catchment situated around the urban area. We present challenges in surface water quality within the study area that is relatable, or may even present more challenging, in other low- or middle-income country (LMICs) settings. The study also highlighted some challenges and limitations associated with the much-needed application of wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) intervention in non-sewered communities that can inform on public health and communal substance use profiles of the entire urban setting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160254
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume859
Early online date17 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Nov 2022

Keywords

  • Daily load
  • Emerging contaminants
  • Risk characterisation
  • Wastewater based epidemiology
  • Wastewater treatment works

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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