Assessment of trace organic chemical removal by a membrane bioreactor using GC-MS and a yeast screen bioassay

Heather M. Coleman, Martin Troester, Stuart Khan, James McDonald, Graeme Watkins, Richard Stuetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A membrane bioreactor (MBR) was assessed for the removal of estrogens, androgens, and a selection of pharmaceuticalsand personal care products. The biomass and aqueous components of the MBR were investigated to determine whether removal wasby biodegradation or by adsorption to the biomass. Removal was monitored using chemical analysis by gas chromatography/massspectrometry (GC-MS) as well as biological analysis using estrogenic and androgenic yeast assays. Results showed that the MBR waseffective in removing the compounds of concern from raw influent with removal rates between 78 and 99%. Removal efficiencies were comparable or better than those reported for conventional activated sludge systems, which was attributed to the relatively high sludge retention time of the MBR. The biomass component showed significant concentrations of salicylic acid, triclosan, and 4-tertoctylphenol. Estrogenic and androgenic activity was also measured in the biomass. Estrone was identified as the main compound responsible for the estrogenic activity. It was concluded that the main removal pathway was biodegradation, but sorption to biomass may also be important, particularly for triclosan and 4-tert-octylphenol.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2537-2545
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number12
Early online date5 Aug 2009
Publication statusPublished online - 5 Aug 2009


  • Membrane bioreactors
  • Endocrine-disrupting chemicals
  • Pharmaceuticals Personal care products


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessment of trace organic chemical removal by a membrane bioreactor using GC-MS and a yeast screen bioassay'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this