Posted: March 5, 2019

Soil may be a natural filter that can act as a tertiary treatment for treated wastewater, preventing antibiotics from contaminating groundwater, according to college researchers who conducted a study at Penn State's Living Filter.

Alison Franklin

Alison Franklin

Jack Watson, professor of crop and soil science, and Alison Franklin, a doctoral degree student in soil science and biogeochemistry, analyzed the fate and transport of three antibiotics important to human health in soil and groundwater at the 50-year-old wastewater-reuse system. The Living Filter spray-irrigates treated effluent from the University Park campus's sewage treatment plant on 600 acres of farm and forest.

The findings, published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, suggest land application of treated wastewater may present a cost-efficient way to upgrade treatment plants to remove emerging contaminants.

--Jeff Mulhollem