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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Developing exposure and toxicity data for trace organic chemicals in wastewater, biosolids, and soils

PI: Bice Martincigh (, University of KwaZulu-Natal
U.S. Partner: Natalie Mladenov, San Diego State University

Project Overview:

5-432 BMartincigh
Dr. Chris Buckley at the wastewater treatment plant at Newlands Mashu
Contemporary lifestyles and the extensive use of organic chemicals in personal care and consumer products (PCCPs) leads to the constant discharge of enormous quantities of chemical residues from industries and homes into wastewater streams and, ultimately, the environment. In contrast to heavy metals, pathways of trace organic chemicals (TOrCs) derived from manufacturing and use of PCCPs are varied in the wastewater stream . The majority of TOrCs that reach wastewater treatment plants are destroyed through treatment and sludge processing, but recalcitrant TOrCs and their metabolites can pass through the treatment process intact and partition, dependent on their physico-chemical properties, in biosolids and aqueous media. Very little is known about the fate of TOrCs in the climatic context of South Africa.

This team has chosen to study a set of four classes of potential pollutants: flame retardants, the broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate (Ro undup®, ubiquitously used in the local sugarcane industry), antibiotics, and HIV anti-retrovirals. Effluents from wastewater treatment plants in the Durban area, sewage sludge, biosolids, soils from effluent-irrigated farm land, and sludge and/or biosolid-amended soils will be analyzed and characterized for the presence of these TOrCs.

This project will have access to the local DEWATS wastewater treatment plant, which allows for detailed studies on the fate of the TOrCs during their passage through the plant and subsequent agricultural areas, providing a confined and controlled environment. Comprehensive target and non-target analytical techniques will be developed to detect and quantify the four classes of compounds in the selected matrices.

Furthermore, the team will develop a simultaneous extraction and clean-up method for each chemical compound class in the above-mentioned matrices.

Summary of Recent Events

Three PhD students have been appointed to work on the project. These are Abdulkadir Mahmoud who will work on the flame retardants, Lerato Mollo who will investigate the ARVs and Tolulope Lawrence who will work on the personal care products. Bursaries have been disbursed to Abdulkadir Mahmoud and Tolulope Lawrence. Lerato Mollo has other sources of funding. They hope to fund two more students on this project in due course.

To date the students have been undertaking their literature review, and applying for ethical clearance in order to be able to obtain some of the samples (particularly those at the DEWATS wastewater treatment plant). They have also compiled lists of reagents required to undertake the project and orders for the standards have been placed. Once these arrive, they will be able to begin devising their analysis procedures.

The US partner, Dr Natalie Mladenov, and some of her students visited the PI and her team in Durban. The one student is currently undertaking research together with Lerato Mollo on the photolysis of ARVs in ABR effluent. The results from these experiments will inform the group on how solar exposure can assist in the degradation of these drugs without further treatment.

In the forthcoming months, the students will devise the necessary procedures for the analysis and quantification of their analyses. Once the ethical clearance is received they will be able to work on real samples and determine whether the procedures devised are sufficiently effective. Abdulkadir Mahmoud is currently receiving training at the University of Birmingham (July - September) on the analysis of flame retardants. They are the world leaders in this area and this should prove very beneficial to the project.

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Chemistry lab at UKZNThe UKZN project team and PEER Project Manager

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