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Predicting Concentrations Of Trace Organic Compounds In Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant Sludge And Biosolids Using The PhATE™ Model.

Virginia L. Cunningham, Vincent J D'Aco, Danielle Pfeiffer, Paul D. Anderson, Mary E Buzby, Robert E. Hannah, James Jahnke, Neil J. Parke
Published 2012 · Medicine, Engineering
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This article presents the capability expansion of the PhATE™ (pharmaceutical assessment and transport evaluation) model to predict concentrations of trace organics in sludges and biosolids from municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). PhATE was originally developed as an empirical model to estimate potential concentrations of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in US surface and drinking waters that could result from patient use of medicines. However, many compounds, including pharmaceuticals, are not completely transformed in WWTPs and remain in biosolids that may be applied to land as a soil amendment. This practice leads to concerns about potential exposures of people who may come into contact with amended soils and also about potential effects to plants and animals living in or contacting such soils. The model estimates the mass of API in WWTP influent based on the population served, the API per capita use, and the potential loss of the compound associated with human use (e.g., metabolism). The mass of API on the treated biosolids is then estimated based on partitioning to primary and secondary solids, potential loss due to biodegradation in secondary treatment (e.g., activated sludge), and potential loss during sludge treatment (e.g., aerobic digestion, anaerobic digestion, composting). Simulations using 2 surrogate compounds show that predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) generated by PhATE are in very good agreement with measured concentrations, i.e., well within 1 order of magnitude. Model simulations were then carried out for 18 APIs representing a broad range of chemical and use characteristics. These simulations yielded 4 categories of results: 1) PECs are in good agreement with measured data for 9 compounds with high analytical detection frequencies, 2) PECs are greater than measured data for 3 compounds with high analytical detection frequencies, possibly as a result of as yet unidentified depletion mechanisms, 3) PECs are less than analytical reporting limits for 5 compounds with low analytical detection frequencies, and 4) the PEC is greater than the analytical method reporting limit for 1 compound with a low analytical detection frequency, possibly again as a result of insufficient depletion data. Overall, these results demonstrate that PhATE has the potential to be a very useful tool in the evaluation of APIs in biosolids. Possible applications include: prioritizing APIs for assessment even in the absence of analytical methods; evaluating sludge processing scenarios to explore potential mitigation approaches; using in risk assessments; and developing realistic nationwide concentrations, because PECs can be represented as a cumulative probability distribution. Finally, comparison of PECs to measured concentrations can also be used to identify the need for fate studies of compounds of interest in biosolids.
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