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Co-occurrence of Photochemical and Microbiological Transformation Processes in Open-Water Unit Process Wetlands


The fate of anthropogenic trace organic contaminants in surface waters can be complex due to the occurrence of multiple parallel and consecutive transformation processes. In this study, the removal of five antiviral drugs (abacavir, acyclovir, emtricitabine, lamivudine and zidovudine) via both bio- and phototransformation processes, was investigated in laboratory microcosm experiments simulating an open-water unit process wetland receiving municipal wastewater effluent. Phototransformation was the main removal mechanism for abacavir, zidovudine, and emtricitabine, with half-lives (t1/2,photo) in wetland water of 1.6, 7.6, and 25 h, respectively. In contrast, removal of acyclovir and lamivudine was mainly attributable to slower microbial processes (t1/2,bio = 74 and 120 h, respectively). Identification of transformation products revealed that bio- and phototransformation reactions took place at different moieties. For abacavir and zidovudine, rapid transformation was attributable to high reactivity of the cyclopropylamine and azido moieties, respectively. Despite substantial differences in kinetics of different antiviral drugs, biotransformation reactions mainly involved oxidation of hydroxyl groups to the corresponding carboxylic acids. Phototransformation rates of parent antiviral drugs and their biotransformation products were similar, indicating that prior exposure to microorganisms (e.g., in a wastewater treatment plant or a vegetated wetland) would not affect the rate of transformation of the part of the molecule susceptible to phototransformation. However, phototransformation strongly affected the rates of biotransformation of the hydroxyl groups, which in some cases resulted in greater persistence of phototransformation products.

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