Mass Loading and Removal of Select Illicit Drugs in Two Wastewater Treatment Plants in New York State and Estimation of Illicit Drug Usage in Communities through Wastewater Analysis
journal contributionposted on 2014-06-17, 00:00 authored by Bikram Subedi, Kurunthachalam Kannan
Sewage epidemiology is a rapidly expanding field that can provide information on illicit drug usage in communities, based on the measured concentrations in samples from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). In this study, select illicit drugs (six drugs and eight metabolites) were determined on a daily basis for a week in wastewater, suspended particulate matter (SPM), and sludge from two WWTPs in the Albany area in New York State. The WWTP that served a larger population (∼100 000, with a flow rate of 83 300 m3/d) showed 3.2 (methadone) to 51 (3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine; MDA) times higher mass flows of illicit drugs than did the WWTP that served a smaller population (∼15 000, with a flow rate of 6850 m3/d). The consumption rate of target illicit drugs in the communities served by the two WWTPs was estimated to range from 1.67 to 3510 mg/d/1000 people. Between the dissolved and particulate phases, the fraction of methadone, 2-ethylidene-1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine (EDDP), amphetamine, and MDA sorbed to SPM ranged from 34.3% to 41.1% of the total mass in the waste stream. The removal efficiencies of illicit drugs from the two WWTPs ranged from 4% (norcocaine) to 99% (cocaine); however, methamphetamine, methadone, and EDDP showed a negative removal in WWTPs. The environmental emission of illicit drugs from WWTP discharges was calculated to range from 0.38 (MDEA) to 67.5 (EDDP) mg/d/1000 people. Other markers such as caffeine, paraxanthine, nicotine, and cotinine were found to predict the concentrations of select illicit drugs in raw wastewater (r2 = 0.20–0.79; p ≤ 0.029).