Occurrence of disinfection by-products in sewage treatment plants and the marine environment in Hong Kong

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

2 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-411
Journal / PublicationEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Online published18 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2019


Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) are generated by disinfectants reacting with organic matters. Previous studies have focused on DBPs in drinking water, but they have not paid sufficient attention to DBPs in sewage treatment plants (STPs), where the sources and compositions of DBPs are much more complicated, and there is a likelihood of more toxic DBPs being formed. In this study, the occurrence of DBPs in six STPs in Hong Kong and the potential impact of the effluents from the STPs on the marine environment were investigated. In STPs, the mean concentrations of the total DBPs ranged from 1160 to 17,019 ng/L, 1562 to 20,795 ng/L, and 289 to 1037 ng/L in the influent, effluent, and seawater, respectively. Trihalomethanes, haloacetonitriles, and trihalophenols were the most commonly detected DBPs, whereas hexachloro-1,3-butadiene and halocarbazoles were not detected in the STPs and in the marine environment in Hong Kong. Secondary treatment efficiently removed DBPs and DBP precursors. Regarding disinfection techniques, UV irradiation showed little effect on the concentrations of DBPs, whereas sodium hypochlorite significantly elevated the levels of both traditional and emerging DBPs. The effluents from two selected STPs that use chlorination have an obvious impact on the marine environment. This work presents the potential sources of DBPs in sewage, the influence of the treatment processes and disinfection techniques employed in STPs on the removal/formation of DBPs, and the impact of the effluents from the STPs on the marine environment. This work also highlights the need for investigating the emerging DBPs generated in STPs and their related environmental concerns.

Research Area(s)

  • Disinfection byproducts, Marine environment, Sewage treatment plants, Trihalophenols