Effect-based water monitoring

#water quality #micropollutants #effect-based methods #wastewater #surface water
The figure shows estrogenic effects in three wastewater samples analyzed by the planar yeast estrogen screen. The samples are applied in tracks – the influent sample on the left and the respective effluent sample adjacent to its right. On the far right, two tracks containing reference compounds are applied. These reference compounds are Estrone in amounts of 10 and 100 pg, 17-Estradiol und 17-Ethinylestradiol in amounts of 1 ans 10 pg, each, and Estriol in amounts of 100 und 1000 pgl. Compounds with estrogenic potential appear as blue fluorescent bands after the performance of the biotest on the surface of the thin-layer plate. A number of fluorescent signals were detectable in all samples. Some signals can be assigned to the reference compounds based on their migration behavior. The estrogenic activity profiles in all influent samples are very similar. However, the signal intensities in the effluent samples differ substantially between the three wastewater treatment plant, indicating their different treatment efficiency to remove estrogenic compounds.
Estrogenic effects by components of enriched influent (In) and effluent (Ef) samples of three different wastewater treatment plants (STP). The blue fluorescent signals indicate the presence of estrogenic compounds in the samples. The estrogenic activity profiles show different treatment efficiencies of the investigated treatment plants.

The developed effect-based analysis of micropollutants enables the sensitive and robust detection of previously unknown pollutants in environmental samples by a direct coupling of thin-layer chromatography and biological assays. (Project-ID: 02WIL1387)

With currently more than 350,000 substances, the number of industrially produced chemicals has more than tripled in the last 20 years. In Europe, water-bodies are monitored for a limited list of selected substances that pose a risk for humans and the environment. In addition to these regulated substances, however, many other pollutants may be present in the aquatic environment, some of which are unknown and thus cannot be captured by list-targeted chemical analysis. The advantage of the developed effect-based method is that the presence of problematic substances can be detected based on their undesired biological effects. Samples, which often contain a cocktail of known and unknown substances, are separated using thin layer chromatography. After the separation, the surface of the thin-layer plate is examined directly by using various biological test methods to detect genotoxic, dioxin-like, phytotoxic or various hormonal effects. For example, the contraceptive 17a-ethinylestradiol can be detected in the lower pg/l range in environmental samples by this method. If the test is positive, i.e. if undesired effects are detectable, bio-active chemicals causing respective effects are present in the investigated sample. Based on the various tests, activity profiles are generated for individual samples. These profiles allow to specifically identify the triggering compound class - even if it is not yet known or regulated. The developed method can be applied to identify sources of pollutants, as well as to assess the efficiency of technical processes, e.g. the efficiency of wastewater treatment.

The tool was developed within the German-Israeli water technology cooperation project :"Tracking effects of environmental organic micro-pollutants in the subsurface" (TREES).

Water resource: Groundwater, Surface water, Wastewater
Type of product:
  • Monitoring & analytics
TRL: 7
    TRL (Technology Readiness Level)
  • TRL 1 - Basic principles observed
  • TRL 2 - Technology concept formulated
  • TRL 3 - Experimental proof of concept
  • TRL 4 - Technology validated in lab
  • TRL 5 - Technology validated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 6 - Technology demonstrated in relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies)
  • TRL 7 - System prototype demonstration in operational environment
  • TRL 8 - System complete and qualified
  • TRL 9 - Actual system proven in operational environment (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies; or in space)
Application sector: Cities and municipalities, Industry, Water resource management
Funding measure: DE-IL-WaTec
Project: TREES

Contact and partners

Logo Bundesanstalt für Gewässerkunde (BfG)
  • Bundesanstalt für Gewässerkunde (BfG),
  • Am Mainzer Tor 1,
  • 56068 Koblenz

Bundesanstalt für Gewässerkunde (BfG),
Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Institute of Life Sciences, Hebrew University, Jerusalem 9190401, Israel

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