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Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Vol. 142, 2017, Pages: 448-453

Antimicrobial compounds (triclosan and triclocarban) in sewage sludges, and their presence in runoff following land application

M.G.Healy, O.Fenton, M.Cormican, D.P.Peyton, N.Ordsmith, K.Kimber, L.Morrison

Civil Engineering, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.


The reuse of treated municipal sewage (‘biosolids’) on land is an effective method to divert waste away from landfill and to use an alternative, low cost method of fertilisation. While legislation has mainly focused on the control of nutrient and metal application rates to land, other potentially harmful emerging contaminants (ECs) may be present in biosolids. Up to 80% of municipal sewage sludge is reused in agriculture in Ireland, which is currently the highest rate of reuse in Europe. However, unlike other countries, no study has been conducted on the presence of ECs across a range of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in this country. This study evaluated the concentrations of two ECs in sewage sludge, the antimicrobials triclosan (TCS) and triclocarban (TCC), and their presence in surface runoff following land application in controlled rainfall simulation studies. In 16 WWTPs, concentrations of TCS and TCC were 0.61 and 0.08 µg g-1, which is at the lower end of concentrations measured in other countries. The concentrations in runoff post land application were also mainly below the limits of detection (90 ng L-1 for TCS, 6 ng L-1 for TCC), indicating that runoff is not a significant pathway of entry into the environment.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Triclosan, Triclocarban, Biosolids, Wastewater treatment plants, Surface runoff.

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