UTEP team claims method for ridding effluent of EDCs

Additional use of ultraviolet (UV) light and chlorine can ultimately remove endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), according to research carried out at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Texas, USA.

EDCs are chemicals commonly found in household and industrial products, including BPA in plastics and nonylphenols found in detergents and pesticides, that are capable of disrupting hormonal balance within humans and wildlife, leading to reproductive disturbances. Ending up in wastewater plants, they are often still present when the water re-enters the environment after treatment, particularly important for water-reuse schemes.

“We’re not just dealing with one compound, but a complexity of them all mixed together that create a sort of soup,” said Dr Wen‑Yee Lee, associate professor of chemistry and principal investigator of the study. “And we’re not sure how this mixing alters the compounds and affects us yet.”

In order to remove the compounds from the water, the university team constructed a small wastewater testing facility, where they found that additional disinfection processes via UV rays and chlorination led to the removal of EDCs. They hope to validate their results this summer by expanding the study to six existing municipal wastewater treatment plants in El Paso and Socorro, New Mexico.

Their goal is to develop an effective treatment for the complete removal of the compounds. There are currently no regulations that require the removal of EDCs from water systems, but the team hopes the results will provide water utilities worldwide with an effective treatment process to respond to future regulation.

Co-principal investigators in the study are UTEP’s Dr Shane Walker, assistant professor of civil engineering; Dr Marc Cox, associate professor of biological sciences; and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology’s Dr Frank Huang, associate professor of environmental engineering. UTEP doctoral civil engineering student Cesar Bezares is also on the team.