Environ. Sci. Technol. 54 (22) 14380-14392 [2020-11-17; online 2020-10-26]
Assessment of micropollutant biodegradation is essential to determine the persistence of potentially hazardous chemicals in aquatic ecosystems. We studied the dissipation half-lives of 10 micropollutants in sediment-water incubations (based on the OECD 308 standard) with sediment from two European rivers sampled upstream and downstream of wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) discharge. Dissipation half-lives (DT50s) were highly variable between the tested compounds, ranging from 1.5 to 772 days. Sediment from one river sampled downstream from the WWTP showed the fastest dissipation of all micropollutants after sediment RNA normalization. By characterizing sediment bacteria using 16S rRNA sequences, bacterial community composition of a sediment was associated with its capacity for dissipating micropollutants. Bacterial amplicon sequence variants of the genera Ralstonia, Pseudomonas, Hyphomicrobium, and Novosphingobium, which are known degraders of contaminants, were significantly more abundant in the sediment incubations where fast dissipation was observed. Our study illuminates the limitations of the OECD 308 standard to account for variation of dissipation rates of micropollutants due to differences in bacterial community composition. This limitation is problematic particularly for those compounds with DT50s close to regulatory persistence criteria. Thus, it is essential to consider bacterial community composition as a source of variability in regulatory biodegradation and persistence assessments.