Surprisingly, wastewater, even when treated, can represent sources of concentrated pollution, including from household pharmaceuticals. To investigate the impact of wastewater effluents on the water quality of receiving waterbodies, scientists need to know where and how much wastewater is being released from treatment plants. McGill University scientists have compiled a new global database showing the locations and characteristics of 58,502 wastewater treatment plants around the world.
Using this new information, Heloisa Ehalt Macedo, a PhD student in the Department of Geography at McGill, and the research team identified 1.2 million km of rivers that receive treated wastewater discharge from these plants. This may pose a contamination risk if the wastewater is not treated adequately as some of the rivers that were investigated exceed a common threshold for environmental concern linked to wastewater dilution. This research is a first step towards identifying hotspots that are at greatest risk for water pollution from emerging contaminants such as household pharmaceuticals. It is also a step along the way to pinpointing individual treatment plants where improvements in treatment capability is critical to mitigate environmental risks.
“Distribution and characteristics of wastewater treatment plants within the global river network” by Ehalt Macedo et al was published in Earth System Science Data
Earth System Science Data
Distribution and characteristics of wastewater treatment plants within the global river network
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