Upgrading residues from wastewater and drinking water treatment plants as low-cost adsorbents to remove extracellular DNA and microorganisms carrying antibiotic resistance genes from treated effluents

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Abstract

Wastewater treatment is challenged by the continuous emergence of chemical and biological contaminants. Disinfection, advanced oxidation, and activated carbon technologies are accessible in high-income countries to suppress them. Low-cost, easily implementable, and scalable solutions are needed for sanitation across regions. We studied the properties of low-cost absorbents recycled from drinking water and wastewater treatment plant residues to remove environmental DNA and xenogenetic elements from used water. Materials characteristics and DNA adsorption properties of used iron-oxide-coated sands and of sewage-sludge biochar obtained by pyrolysis of surplus activated sludge were examined in bench-scale batch and up-flow column systems. Adsorption profiles followed Freundlich isotherms, suggesting a multilayer adsorption of nucleic acids on these materials. Sewage-sludge biochar exhibited high DNA adsorption capacity (1 mg g−1) and long saturation breakthrough times compared to iron-oxide-coated sand (0.2 mg g−1). Selected antibiotic resistance genes and mobile genetic elements present on the free-floating extracellular DNA fraction and on the total environmental DNA (i.e., both extra/intracellular) were removed at 85% and 97% by sewage-sludge biochar and at 54% and 66% by iron-oxide-coated sand, respectively. Sewage-sludge biochar is attractive as low-cost adsorbent to minimize the spread of antimicrobial resistances to the aquatic environment while strengthening the role of sewage treatment plants as resource recovery factories.
Original languageEnglish
Article number146364
Number of pages14
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume778
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Xenogenetic elements
  • sewage-sludge biochar
  • iron-oxide
  • Adsorption
  • Wastewater
  • Free-floating extracellular DNA

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