Hunting Down Emerging Contaminants in Wastewater: Benzotriazole Derivatives in the Penn State Wastewater Treatment Plant and Surrounding Areas

Forensic Chemistry
Oral Presentation

Prepared by

Contact Information:; 850-417-9006


A topic of growing importance to environmental scientists is the presence of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in municipal wastewater treatment facilities and the possibility of them remaining post- treatment. Many of the current treatment technologies are not effective at selectively removing these CECs. Penn State has its own Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) and all post-treatment effluent flow is used as irrigation for agricultural and forest lands. CECs from personal care products, industrial processes, and pharmaceuticals were analyzed in this study. Pre-treatment influent, post-treatment effluent, and spray field water samples from the Penn State WWTF were extracted and then analyzed by comprehensive two dimensional gas chromatography coupled to time of flight mass spectrometry (GCxGC-TOFMS). This advanced chromatographic technique is a powerful discovery based tool when applied to environmental forensic applications because of its superior separation of complex mixtures. The use of software generated reference methods, calibrations, exclusion zones and classifications allowed for greater ease of data processing and analysis.The data from this project finds CECs present in the influent, effluent and spray water signifying that many are not being removed during the treatment process. Most notably, chlorinated derivatives of benzotriazoles were found at greater concentration in the post-treatment waters than the influent. We suggest that these chlorinated benzotriazoles are disinfection by products produced in the chlorine disinfection step utilized at the Penn State WWTP. Other WWTFs in the central Pennsylvania area were also sampled to compare to the Penn State wastewater.