Gallery: Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Decreases Feminization of F...


Colorado’s Boulder Wastewater Treatment Plant recently received a multimillion-dollar upgrade, which was executed to address a number of problems — one of which was the high amount of chemicals seeping into the water table. After the upgrade, researchers found that the rate of feminization of male fish in Boulder Creek has decreased significantly. Feminization of fish and reptiles can result because of exposure to man-made chemicals that seep into the water table and act as endocrine disruptors. The chemicals can come from pesticides and fertilizers — as we’ve reported before — and from products people use every day, like soap, shampoo, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

A research team from the University of Colorado at Boulder looked into the issue in 2006 by studying the population of fish downstream from the wastewater treatment facility in Boulder Creek. Prior to the plant upgrade, the team led by Professor David Norris found that after just seven days of exposure to a mix of 50% clean water and 50% effluent water from the runnoff from the facility, male fish looked and acted like females. The researchers then went on to study fish samples from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Museum of Natural History from 50 and 100 years ago and the samples showed no sign of feminization. The problem wreaks havoc on fish populations by causing the number of male fish to significantly decline.

This is not the problem of water treatment plants, it’s our problem as human beings. We excrete natural and synthetic estrogens and use shampoos, detergents and cosmetics containing a variety of hormone disrupters that wind up in waterways. All of these different chemicals we are putting into the environment have the potential to alter the biology of animals and to affect ecosystems,” Professor Norris notes.

After the plant upgrade, Norris and his team studied the fish again, this time using pure 100% effluent water from the wastewater facility and found that male fish only started to develop female characteristics 28 days after they were exposed to the water. Not perfect by any means, but surely better than prior to the upgrade. After studying water samples, the group found traces of reproductive steroids naturally produced by people, BPA, phalates from plastic products, nonylphenols from detergents, pesticides and ethinylestradiol — a chemical common in contraceptives. Surely a chemical cocktail that could mess with anyone’s system.

Via Science Daily


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  1. diyav22 September 15, 2011 at 7:27 am
  2. probioticcom May 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I work for a company called Bio Huma Netics, Inc. that produces and distributes various environmental products, including bioremediation, or wastewater treatment, solutions. Prior to joining this company, I knew very little about wastewater and its effects on the environment.

    When wastewater is left untreated, it usually does not meet all of the conditions for optimal microbial activity that leads to breakdown of waste solids. When microbial activity is not optimized, sludge accumulates and odors get out of control. However, if biosolids are reduced more efficiently and rapidly, runoff can be prevented. Also, odors will decrease and the sludge can be removed or recycled back into the environment. These bioremediation techniques are eco-friendly and get the job done efficiently – techniques that more wastewater treatment facilities should look into adopting.

  3. apexmarinecom May 5, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Ho…. I am very shocking about this news.

  4. wastetech December 5, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Sewage Treatment is now possible without the use of electricity.
    To make wastewater acceptable for reuse or for returning to the environment, the concentration of contaminants must be reduced to a non-harmful level, usually a standard prescribed by the Environment Agency and the non-electric Filter Sewage Treatment Plant gives a better quality of effluent than electrically operated plants.
    Surely, sustainability is the way forward?

  5. Shubham October 7, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Waters that are used for drinking, manufacturing, farming, and other purposes by residences (toilets, baths, showers, kitchens, sinks), institutions, hospitals, commercial and industrial establishments are degraded in quality as a result of the introduction of contaminating constituents. Organic wastes, suspended solids, bacteria, nitrates, and phosphates are pollutants that commonly must be removed.

    To make wastewater acceptable for reuse or for returning to the environment, the concentration of contaminants must be reduced to a non-harmful level, usually a standard prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Sewage can be treated close to where it is created (in septic tanks, bio-filters or aerobic treatment systems), or collected and transported via a network of pipes and pump stations to a municipal treatment plant.

    Sewage Treatment, or domestic wastewater treatment, is the process of removing contaminants from wastewater and household sewage, both runoff (effluents) and domestic. The task of designing and constructing facilities for treating wastewaters falls to environmental engineers. They employ a variety of engineered and natural systems to get the job done, using physical, chemical, biological, and sludge treatment methods. Its objective is to produce a waste stream (or treated effluent) and a solid waste or sludge suitable for discharge or reuse back into the environment. This material is often inadvertently contaminated with many toxic organic and inorganic compounds.

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  6. Olympia's New Water Edu... August 24, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    […] US has managed to successfully ration and monitor its water supplies. The next step is to upgrade water treatment facilities to make them as green as the US’ water policy is. Olympia, Washington has taken […]

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