Effects of tetracycline on water quality, soil and gases in aerated and unaerated leachfield mesocosms

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We examined the effects of tetracycline (TET) addition on the function of mesocosms representing aerated and unaerated septic system leachfields. Replicate mesocosms (n = 3) were filled with soil and either vented to a leachfield (LEACH) or aerated intermittently to maintain an O2 level of ∼ 0.21 mol mol-1 (AIR). All mesocosms were dosed every 6 h for 10 d with 3 cm of domestic wastewater amended with 5 mg TET L-1. Water quality parameters, headspace gas composition, and soil properties were measured prior to and during the dosing period, and for 42 days after the last antibiotic dose. No significant effect of TET was observed on the pH, level of dissolved O2 or dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in drainage water from either treatment. In contrast, levels of Fe2 + and SO4 in drainage water from LEACH mesocosms decreased in response to TET dosing, with lower levels persisting until Day 52. Persistent increases were observed in the level of NO3 in drainage water from AIR lysimeters and in NH4 in LEACH mesocosms in response to TET additions. Removal of total P and DOC were unaffected by TET dosing in either treatment. Nitrogen removal in AIR mesocosms decreased during the TET dosing period, returning to pre-dosing values by Day 52. In contrast, TN removal in LEACH mesocosms increased during TET dosing, returning to pre-dosing values by Day 52. The composition of headspace gases in AIR mesocosms was not affected by tetracycline dosing. TET dosing resulted in significant increases in soil NH4 concentration in LEACH mesocosms, whereas significant decreases were apparent in AIR mesocosms. Elevated levels of H2S and CH4 in the headspace of LEACH mesocosms coincided with TET dosing and returned to pre-dosing levels when antibiotic dosing ceased. The effects of tetracycline on leachfield mesocosms differed as a function of aeration. Although most effects were transient, with values returning to pre-dosing levels after a 6-week recovery period in both treatments, persistent effects were observed in LEACH mesocosms. Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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Journal of Environmental Science and Health - Part A Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering