Wastewater Articles

November 28, 2011

Even the Cleanest Municipal Wastewater Contributes to More 'Super Bacteria', Study Finds

Source: ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/11/111114152539.htm

ScienceDaily (Nov. 14, 2011) — A new University of Minnesota study reveals that treated municipal wastewater -- even wastewater treated by the highest-quality treatment technology -- can result in significant quantities of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, often referred to as "superbacteria," in surface waters.

The study also suggests that standard wastewater treatment technologies probably release far greater quantities of antibiotic-resistant genes used by bacteria, but this likely goes unnoticed because background levels of bacteria are normally much higher than in the water studied in this research.

Timothy M. LaPara, Tucker R. Burch, Patrick J. McNamara, David T. Tan, Mi Yan, Jessica J. Eichmiller. Tertiary-Treated Municipal Wastewater is a Significant Point Source of Antibiotic Resistance Genes into Duluth-Superior Harbor. Environmental Science & Technology, 2011; 45 (22): 9543 DOI: 10.1021/es202775r


October 11, 2011

Anti-depressants in Waterways Affecting Fish

Published in the March/April 2011 edition of Environmental Science & Engineering Magazine

Researchers at the University of Montreal have found that anti-depressant drugs are passing into Montreal's waterways and affecting fish. The research team found that these drugs accumulate in fish tissues and affect brain activity. The findings are significant as Montreal's sewage treatment system is similar to that in use in other major cities.The chemical structure of anti-depressants makes them extremely difficult to remove from sewage, even with the most sophisticated systems available.

February 7, 2011

Conversation Biology for All - Free e-book available for download

The following book (350 + pages) is available free for download from a variety of sites.

Conservation Biology for All
Edited by Navjot S. Sodhi and Paul R. Ehrlich

This book contains a series of authoritative chapters written by the top names in conservation biology with the principal aim of disseminating cutting-edge conservation knowledge as widely as possible. Important topics such as balancing conversion and human needs, climate change, conservation planning, designing and analyzing conservation research, ecosystem services, endangered species management, extinctions, fire, habitat loss, and invasive species are covered. Numerous textboxes describing additional relevant material or case studies are also included. Link to individual chapters and full text.

Source: Association of Professional Biology of BC.

Download book

February 3, 2011

Carbon-Negative Biofuels from Low-Input High-Diversity Grassland Biomass

A new study led by David Tilman, Regents’ Professor of Ecology in the University of Minnesota's College of Biological Sciences, found that mixtures of native perennial grasses and other flowering plants are far better for the environment as they provide more usable energy per acre than corn grain ethanol or soybean biodiesel. Even when grown on infertile soils, "Biofuels made from high-diversity mixtures of prairie plants can reduce global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

Biofuels have emerged a leader in the search for the best source of biomass that produces sustainable, bio-based fuel to replace petroleum. Based on 10 years of research at Cedar Creek Natural History Area, the study shows that degraded agricultural land planted with highly diverse mixtures of prairie grasses and other flowering plants produced 238 % more bio-energy on average than the same land planted with various single prairie plant species. Fuel made from this prairie biomass would yield 51% more energy per/acre than ethanol from corn grown on fertile land because perennial prairie plants require little energy to grow and all parts of the plant above ground are usable. Fuels made from prairie biomass are "carbon negative", which means that producing and using them actually reduces the amount of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere. Corn ethanol and soybean biodiesel are "carbon positive" meaning they add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Full article

January 27, 2011

The Okanagan Endocrine Disruptor research project

began in September 2008, is examining the effects on the environment of three natural steroidal estrogens: estrone (E1), Estradiol; (E2), and estriol (E3), and the synthetic ethinylestradiol (EE2).

Endocrine Disrupting Compounds enter waterways through sewage and industrial treatment plant effluent, overland runoff from both urban and agricultural land and input from cattle feedlot facilities. For the purpose of this discussion, EDCs are both natural and synthetic exogenous compounds that elicit an unnatural response by an organism's endocrine system.

The problem with EDCs in the environment is that they are persistent due to continual discharge. Ecological problems can arise from chronic low dose exposure to EDCs. Research as ascertained one part per trillion, which is equivalent to 1/20th of a drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool (about one drop in 1,000,000 L), causes feminization of male fish and amphibians. Research on kettle (isolated) lakes has demonstrated that five parts per trillion causes the collapse of fish populations. In humans, EDCs are also thought to be involved with the recent increases in certain cancers, in a declining boy to girl sex ratio, and a decrease in sperm quality and quantity. It is unresolved as to whether or not these affects can be as a result only of exposure through drinking water. Once EDCs are in the environment they are extremely difficult to remove. Conventional treatment with coagulation and filtration has been found to only remove up to 25% of EDCs. Additional methods such as Granular Activated Carbon and Reverse Osmosis may prove more effective but are costly and have their own associated problems. Biological wastewater treatment does degrade EDCs to a point but steroidal EDCs in particular are not fully broken down. In general, adsorption of EDCs to sediments removes more EDCs than does biodegradation.

The objectives of the study are: (1) to determine the estrogen concentrations leaving three Okanagan wastewater treatment facilities, (2) to determine if concentrations in the receiving waters are a concern, and (3) depending on the results point to a best practices approach with respect to endocrine disruption.

Detailed discussion and results of this important research are found in the study.


See Dr. Paul Westerhoff’s work on what it takes to remove EDC from drinking water.


November 30, 2010

Cocaine, Spices, Hormones Found in Drinking Water


Sea Turtle Herpes Tumors Linked to Sewage?


November 18, 2010

Water Reuse Resources

"The State of Technology of Water Reuse," published August 2010 provides a valuable reference for those interested in obtaining detailed information on wastewater reuse. While written for another political jurisdiction, Texas, the basic principles and many of the specifics are applicable for Western Canada. It has an extensive case study and publication list.

Written by Alan Plummer Associates, Inc., along with Dr. Bryan W. Brooks, Dr. James Crook, Dr. J. E. Drewes, Katz and Associates Inc., Nellor Environmental Associates, Inc., Dr. David L. Sedlak, and Dr. Shane A. Snyder, it is available from: http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/iwt/reuse/projects/reuseadvance/docs/PhaseB_final.pdf

Plants at base of ocean food chain in decline, study finds

Microscopic phytoplankton that form the foundation of the marine food chain are declining, according to a new Canadian study that indicates that the ocean’s ecosystem and fisheries could be changing.

The Globe and Mail.

Huge numbers of female fish spark questions over Alberta water’s safety

Alberta researchers say gender-bending fish in the province's rivers are sending a concerning message about whether the water is safe to drink.

Two University of Calgary professors have been monitoring a small species of minnow in the Red Deer and Oldman rivers in the southern part of the province.

They found in some locations, females made up as much as 90 per cent of the population, far higher than the 55 to 60 per cent that is normally found.

At nearly every site studied, male fish also showed elevated levels of a protein that is normally only found in the blood of females.

The researchers found a large variety of chemicals that affect hormones in the water, both man-made and the result of agriculture.

Professor Lee Jackson says their study doesn't show whether the chemical levels are safe for humans to drink, but the findings are a concern and more research is needed.

Source: The Globe and Mail. In-depth article: Digitaljournal.com