US begins research on trace organics in wastewater biosolids

  • Research


A research project funded by the Water Environment Research Foundation in the US is to collect data on trace organic substances in wastewater biosolids to support regulatory decision making.

The two-year project will gather and generate data on three high-priority compounds: polybrominated diphenyl ethers, azithromycin and ciprofloxacin. The project, entitled ‘Developing exposure and toxicity data for priority trace organics in biosolids’ (TOBI2R15), has been awarded to Cincinnati-based McAvoy Consulting, with input from the University of Cincinnati and the University of Florida.

According to WERF, the research is needed to provide information to allow the completion of risk assessments for human health and the environment in relation to exposure to the three substances as a result of the land application of biosolids. The information will also support communications efforts of wastewater utilities, those applying biosolids to land, regulatory agencies, and product manufacturers around concerns about trace organic substances in biosolids-amended soil. The project outputs could also be used to inform stakeholders about any measures that may need to be taken to ensure the safety of biosolids land application.

Brominated diphenyl ethers, which are used as flame retardants, are among the priority hazardous substances covered by EU legislation. Azithromycin is one of the macrolide antibiotics on Europe’s ‘watch list’ of contaminants. The antibiotic ciprofloxacin is among the test compounds included in work undertaken in Sweden.


  • USA, municipal wastewater, biosolids, sludge, micropollutants