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Positive Matrix Factorization analysis shows dechlorination of polychlorinated biphenyls during domestic wastewater collection and treatment

Capozzi, Staci L., Jing, Ran, Rodenburg, Lisa A., Kjellerup, Birthe Veno
Chemosphere 2019 v.216 pp. 289-296
aroclors, chromatography, data collection, dechlorination, effluents, municipal wastewater, sewer systems, total suspended solids, toxicity, wastewater treatment, Mid-Atlantic region, United States
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent, toxic and bioaccumulative pollutants. One of the few pathways via which they break down is microbial dechlorination, which has been shown to occur in sewers. Questions remain about where within sewers this process takes place and which conditions encourage dechlorination. These issues were examined using a large data set on PCBs in influent and effluents from a main and bypass outfall from a wastewater treatment facility in the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA. A data set containing 64 chromatographic peaks representing 103 PCB congeners measured in 74 whole water samples was analyzed by Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF). PMF resolved four factors, three of which represented Aroclors 1242, 1254, and 1260. The remaining factor represented an advanced dechlorination regime of PCBs characterized by high proportions of PCBs 4 and 19 and comprised about 35% of the PCBs in the treated effluent, among the highest levels of dechlorination observed in previous studies. Concentrations of dechlorination products were not correlated with total suspended solids, indicating they were mostly dissolved and explaining the poor removal via sedimentation during the treatment process. The factors representing Aroclors were positively correlated with total influent flow, but the dechlorination signal was not, suggesting that the dechlorination signal arises from different locations and/or processes than the Aroclors. Even though treatment and dechlorination reduced the dioxin-like toxicity of the PCB mixture, this effect might be offset by the incomplete removal of dechlorination products.