Fate of trace organics in a wastewater effluent dependent stream

Bingfeng Dong, Alandra Kahl, Long Cheng, Hao Vo, Stephanie Ruehl, Tianqi Zhang, Shane Snyder, A. Eduardo Sáez, David Quanrud, Robert G. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Trace organic compounds (TOrCs) in municipal wastewater effluents that are discharged to streams are of potential concern to ecosystem and human health. This study examined the fate of a suite of TOrCs and estrogenic activity in water and sediments in an effluent-dependent stream in Tucson, Arizona. Sampling campaigns were performed during 2011 to 2013 along the Lower Santa Cruz River, where TOrCs and estrogenic activity were measured in aqueous (surface) and solid (riverbed sediment) phases. Some TOrCs, including contributors to estrogenic activity, were rapidly attenuated with distance of travel in the river. Those TOrCs that are not sufficiently attenuated and percolate to ground water have in common low biodegradation probabilities and low octanol-water distribution ratios. Independent experiments showed that attenuation of estrogenic compounds may be due in part to indirect photolysis caused by formation of organic radicals from sunlight absorption. Hydrophobic TOrCs may accumulate in riverbed sediments during dry weather periods, but riverbed sediment quality is periodically affected through storm-related scouring during periods of heavy rainfall and runoff. Taken together, evidence suggests that natural processes can attenuate at least some TOrCs, reducing potential impacts to ecosystem and human health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-490
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jun 5 2015


  • Effluent dependent stream
  • Estrogenic activity
  • Solar photolysis
  • Trace organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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