4 years ago

Suitability of fluorescent whitening compounds (FWCs) as indicators of human faecal contamination from septic tanks in rural catchments

Suitability of fluorescent whitening compounds (FWCs) as indicators of human faecal contamination from septic tanks in rural catchments
Rural river catchments are impacted by diffuse pollution sources from agricultural practices and on-site domestic wastewater treatment systems (DWWTS), mainly septic tanks. Methods that can distinguish between contamination sources will significantly increase water management efficiency as they will allow for the development and application of targeted remediation measures. Fluorescent whitening compounds (FWC), are used as optical brighteners in laundry detergents and enter the environment through the discharge of domestic wastewater effluents. Due to their human specific source and potential simple fluorometric measurement this represents a very attractive method to be used by state monitoring agencies. In this study the suitability of FWCs as chemical indicators for human faecal contamination has been investigated in rural Irish catchments. It was found that no quantitative measurements are possible for FWCs in natural waters when using simple fluorometric methods. Hence a simple presence/absence approach needs to be applied. The detectability of FWCs was quantified and found to decrease with higher organic matter content of the river water which has its own fluorescence. This enabled the establishment of equations to predict detection limits and assess the method's suitability for individual catchments based on organic matter concentrations. Furthermore a modified photodecay method is suggested that increases sensitivity of the technique by up to 59%. Applications at rural study sites found some removal of FWCs in percolation areas of DWWTSs but they were still detectable 40 cm below the infiltration depth. FWCs were also detected as distinguishable peaks in impacted streams where septic tank effluents have a high contribution to the river flow.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0043135417308291

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