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Simultaneous attenuation of trace organics and change in organic matter composition in the hyporheic zone of urban streams

Mueller, Birgit M.; Schulz, Hanna; Danczak, Robert E.; Putschew, Anke; Lewandowski , Joerg

Trace organic compounds (TrOCs) enter rivers with discharge of treated wastewater. These effluents can contain high loads of dissolved organic matter (DOM). In a 48 h field study, we investigated changes in molecular composition of seven DOM compound classes (FTICR-MS) and attenuation of 17 polar TrOCs in a small urban stream receiving treated wastewater. Correlations between TrOCs and DOM were used to identify simultaneous changes in surface water and the hyporheic zone. Changes in TrOC concentrations in surface water ranged between a decrease of 29.2% for methylbenzotriazole and an increase of 152.2% for the transformation product gabapentin-lactam. In the hyporheic zone, only decreasing TrOC concentrations were observed, ranging from 4.9% for primidone to 93.8% for venlafaxine . TrOC attenuation coincided with a decline of molecular diversity of easily biodegradable DOM compound classes while molecular diversity of poorly biodegradable DOM compound classes increased. This concurrence indicates similar or linked attenuation pathways for biodegradable DOM and TrOCs. Strong correlations between TrOCs and DOM compound classes as well as high attenuation of TrOCs primarily occurred in the hyporheic zone. This suggests high potential for DOM turnover and TrOC mitigation in rivers if hyporheic exchange is sufficient.
Published in: Scientific Reports, 10.1038/s41598-021-83750-8, Springer Nature