Measured and predicted environmental concentrations of carbamazepine, diclofenac, and metoprolol in small and medium rivers in northern Germany
This study evaluated the impact of secondary municipal effluent discharge on carbamazepine, diclofenac, and metoprolol concentrations in small and medium rivers in northern Germany and compared the measured environmental concentrations (MECs) to the predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) calculated with four well-established models. During a 1-year sampling period, secondary effluent grab samples were collected at four wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) together with grab samples from the receiving waters upstream and downstream from the wastewater discharge points. The carbamazepine, diclofenac, and metoprolol concentrations were analyzed with high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC/MS-MS) after solid phase extraction. In the secondary effluents, 84–790 ng/L carbamazepine, 395–2100 ng/L diclofenac, and 745–5000 ng/L metoprolol were detected. The carbamazepine, diclofenac, and metoprolol concentrations analyzed in the rivers downstream from the secondary effluent discharge sites ranged from <5 to 68, 370, and 520 ng/L, respectively. Most of the downstream pharmaceutical concentrations were markedly higher than the corresponding upstream concentrations. The impact of wastewater discharge on the MECs in rivers downstream from the WWTPs was clearly demonstrated, but the correlations of the MECs with dilution factors were poor. The smallest rivers exhibited the largest maximum MECs and the widest ranges of MECs downstream from the wastewater discharge point. Three of the four tested models were conservative, as they showed higher PECs than the MECs in the rivers downstream from the WWTPs. However, the most detailed model underestimated the diclofenac concentrations.