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Sorption and degradation of contaminants of emerging concern in soils under aerobic and anaerobic conditions

Biel-Maeso, Miriam, González-González, Carmen, Lara-Martín, Pablo A., Corada-Fernández, Carmen
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.666 pp. 662-671
acesulfame potassium, adsorption, aeration, aerobic conditions, agricultural soils, anaerobic conditions, aquatic environment, biodegradation, biosolids, diclofenac, environmental fate, gemfibrozil, groundwater contamination, half life, hydrochlorothiazide, ibuprofen, long term effects, methane, microbial activity, models, oxygen, saccharin, sorption isotherms, sucralose, sulfamethizole, sulfamethoxazole, tracer techniques, wastewater treatment, water reuse
Large quantities of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are susceptible of entering the terrestrial environments through the application of recycled wastewater, manures, and biosolids, resulting in their progressive contamination and possible long-term effects over terrestrial species. Many studies on the environmental fate of CECs focus on aquatic environments and/or wastewater treatment plants, but little is still known about their behavior at environmentally relevant concentrations in agricultural soils. In this study, we evaluated the adsorption and degradation of nine different pharmaceuticals (nadolol, sulfamethizole, sulfamethoxazole, sulfamethopyridazone, carbamazepine, ibuprofen, diclofenac, hydrochlorothiazide, and gemfibrozil) and four artificial sweeteners (acesulfame, saccharin, cyclamate, and sucralose) in two soils under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. The sorption of target compounds in soils fitted well to a Freundlich isotherm model and was relatively low (Kf < 200 L kg−1). Sorption was highest for cyclamate (Kf = 162 L kg−1) and acesulfame (Kf = 156 L kg−1), while lowest sorption coefficients were measured for ibuprofen (Kf = 1–7 L kg−1). All target compounds (except for carbamazepine) were susceptible to microbial degradation under aerobic conditions, with half-lives ranging from 1 to 18 days. Degradation occurred at a higher rate under aerobic conditions for most contaminants, but they were relatively persistent under anaerobic conditions. For instance, over 90% of the initial amount of spiked nadolol was degraded in aerobic soils after 4 days of incubation, while only 18–24% was lost in absence of oxygen after 1 month, resulting in t1/2 values between 95 and 103 days. The degradation behavior of the target compounds varied in relation to soil and compound physicochemical properties as well as the microbial activities (e.g., 220 ppm of CH4 were produced in anaerobic experiments) and aeration of the tested soils. Overall, the poor adsorption and relative persistence of sucralose and carbamazepine suggests that both may be used as potential tracers for soil and groundwater contamination.