Role of biofilms in sorptive removal of steroidal hormones and 4-nonylphenol compounds from streams

Environmental Science & Technology
By: , and 



Stream biofilms play an important role in geochemical processing of organic matter and nutrients, however, the significance of this matrix in sorbing trace organic contaminants is less understood. This study focused on the role of stream biofilms in sorbing steroidal hormones and 4-nonylphenol compounds from surface waters using biofilms colonized in situ on artificial substrata and subsequently transferred to the laboratory for controlled batch sorption experiments. Steroidal hormones and 4-nonylphenol compounds readily sorb to stream biofilms as indicated by organic matter partition coefficients (Kom, L kg–1) for 17β-estradiol (102.5–2.8 L kg–1), 17α-ethynylestradiol (102.5–2.9 L kg–1), 4-nonylphenol (103.4–4.6 L kg–1), 4-nonylphenolmonoethoxylate (103.5–4.0 L kg–1), and 4-nonylphenoldiethoxylate (103.9–4.3 L kg–1). Experiments using water quality differences to induce changes in the relative composition of periphyton and heterotrophic bacteria in the stream biofilm did not significantly affect the sorptive properties of the stream biofilm, providing additional evidence that stream biofilms will sorb trace organic compounds under of variety of environmental conditions. Because sorption of the target compounds to stream biofilms was linearly correlated with organic matter content, hydrophobic partition into organic matter appears to be the dominant mechanism. An analysis of 17β-estradiol and 4-nonylphenol hydrophobic partition into water, biofilm, sediment, and dissolved organic matter matrices at mass/volume ratios typical of smaller rivers showed that the relative importance of the stream biofilm as a sorptive matrix was comparable to bed sediments. Therefore, stream biofilms play a primary role in attenuating these compounds in surface waters. Because the stream biofilm represents the base of the stream ecosystem, accumulation of steroidal hormones and 4-nonylphenol compounds in the stream biofilm may be an exposure pathway for organisms in higher trophic levels.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Role of biofilms in sorptive removal of steroidal hormones and 4-nonylphenol compounds from streams
Series title Environmental Science & Technology
DOI 10.1021/es2008038
Volume 45
Issue 17
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher ACS Publications
Contributing office(s) Branch of Regional Research-Central Region, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 9 p.
First page 7275
Last page 7283
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