German study reveals antibiotic impact of sewage and manure on groundwater

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A study by Germany’s Environment Agency has revealed how antibiotics used for humans and farm animals reach groundwater, prompting the agency to call for a closer investigation of small wastewater treatment plants and to recommend a limit for antibiotics in groundwater.

The Umweltbundesamt (UBA) carried out in-depth testing in northern Germany to investigate how antibiotics were reaching contaminated groundwaters. Tests undertaken in Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, and North Rhein-Westphalia traced the antibiotics mainly to the spreading of manure from farm livestock but also, in two cases, to small wastewater treatment plants. As a precaution, UBA has recommended the introduction of a threshold value for human and veterinary antibiotics in groundwater, stating that initially the threshold should be based on the 100 ng/l value used for biocides and pesticides.

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  • Germany, pharmaceuticals, micropollutants