Background, aim, and scope
In the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC, environmental objectives for the proper quality of inland, surface, transitional, coastal, and ground waters have been set. Member states are required to identify chemical pollutants of significance in the water bodies, to establish emission control measures, and to achieve quality standards. A specific category of pollutants are the compounds that may possess endocrine-related functions known as endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs). This means that member states have the obligation to take action in order to prevent human exposure to these compounds via aquatic environment. The objective of this research was to study the occurrence and distribution of phenolic and steroid EDCs in inland waters and wastewaters discharged in the area of Thermaikos Gulf, Thessaloniki, Northern Greece.
Materials and methods
Samples were collected from three rivers, four streams, and four municipal and industrial wastewaters from the area of Thessaloniki, Northern Greece, during the period 2005–2006. The samples were analyzed for 14 EDCs (nonylphenol, octylphenol, their mono- and di-ethoxylate oligomers, bisphenol A, estrone, 17α-estradiol, 17β-estradiol, estriol, mestranol, and 17α-ethynylestradiol). The compounds were recovered by solid phase extraction and ultrasonic extraction from the dissolved phase and particulate phase, respectively, and determined by employing gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.
Results revealed the presence of phenolic EDCs (NP, NP1EO, NP2EO, tOP, OP1EO, OP2EO, and BPA) in all water and wastewater samples. Steroid EDCs were not found at detectable concentrations. The relationships between field partition coefficients of EDCs and concentration of total suspended solids, dissolved, and particulate organic carbon were investigated.
Rivers exhibited concentrations of EDCs similar to minimally impacted surface waters worldwide. The concentrations of NP and OP occasionally exceeded the environmental quality criteria proposed for inland waters. The concentrations of EDCs in streams exhibited wide variations due to low flow rate in these systems and the impact of wastewaters from various pollution sources. Wastewater from tannery activities showed extremely high concentrations of NP, whereas relatively high concentrations of EDCs were determined in effluents from the industrial wastewater treatment plant. Field partition coefficients of EDCs are negatively correlated with concentrations of total suspended solids and dissolved organic carbon and positively correlated with particulate organic carbon.
The examined rivers (Aliakmon, Axios, and Loudias) exhibited concentrations of EDCs similar to minimally impacted surface waters worldwide. However, special attention should be paid to these systems since the concentrations for NP and OP occasionally were above the proposed quality standards, revealing the impact of urban, industrial, and agricultural activities. High concentrations of EDCs were determined in streams, urban, and industrial wastewater posing significant risk to the aquatic environment they discharged.
Recommendations and perspectives
The occurrence of EDCs in inland waters and wastewaters discharged to Thermaikos Gulf results in an increased risk to the marine environment. Thus, these systems should be regularly monitored, especially for NP, OP, and BPA that are considered as priority hazardous compounds in the Water Framework Directive.