Soil could filter antibiotics from treated wastewater, protecting groundwater.

Researcher Alison Franklin, a doctoral student in the College of Agricultural Sciences, puts the cap on a soil sample taken from Penn State's Living Filter with a Giddings hydraulic soil sampler. She was looking for antibiotics. Image: Jack Watson Research Group/Penn State

Researcher Alison Franklin, a doctoral student in the College of Agricultural Sciences, puts the cap on a soil sample taken from Penn State's Living Filter with a Giddings hydraulic soil sampler. She was looking for antibiotics. Image: Jack Watson Research Group/Penn State

Team: Jack Watson, Alison Franklin, and Clinton Williams

Researchers analyzed the fate and transport of three antibiotics important to human health—sulfamethoxazole, ofloxacin, and trimethoprim—in soil and groundwater at the Living Filter, a 50-year-old wastewater reuse system that spray-irrigates treated effluent from the University Park campus’s sewage treatment plant on 600 acres of farm and forest.

Results showed that soil in many cases could offer another level of treatment to remove antibiotics from treated wastewater. Each antibiotic behaved differently in soil. Groundwater concentrations were typically much lower than soil or wastewater effluent concentrations; only sulfamethoxazole was found consistently. Antibiotics interacted with the soil, and groundwater concentrations were frequently more than a 1,000-fold lower than effluent, so the soil profile appears to be an adequate tertiary treatment for wastewater treatment plant effluent.

Funding

USDA NIFA and Multistate Research Appropriations

News

Soil could filter antibiotics from treated wastewater, protecting groundwater

Thematic Area

Environmental Resilience

Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600

Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600