Seasonal variation of contaminant concentrations in wastewater treatment works effluents and river waters.
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Results are presented for 170 wastewater treatment works sites (20 per substance in influent, effluent and 36 per substance in river water upstream and downstream of the WwTW discharge) over a period of two years between 2015 and 2017; this comprises data for approximately 3000 samples for effluent and 6000 for river samples taken downstream of effluent discharges. Seasonal trends in contaminant concentrations for several substances are reported. Two clear patterns of seasonal variation are proposed over and above all of the variables associated with environmental data including process technology, dilution and geography. Firstly, variation of riverine concentrations caused by seasonal fluctuations in river flow (sewage flow being relatively consistent) resulting in summer maxima and winter minima. Alternatively, variation is observed that is attributable to the improved performance of wastewater treatment processes under warmer conditions. This leads to the lowest concentrations in autumn when surface water/sewage treatment temperatures tend to peak. Seasonality for trace contaminants is more difficult to characterise than that of sanitary parameters owing to the higher variability in the concentration of the substances of interest. The data also provide an insight into the amplitude of such variations. This makes it possible to assess the likely effects of seasonality and its impact on aquatic life. For example, the existence of seasonality (perhaps due only to dilution effects) might be demonstrated, but the amplitude might be too small in relation to the potential ecotoxicological effects to be of any consequence.
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