You are on page 1of 3

Environ Sci Pollut Res (2010) 17:11831185

DOI 10.1007/s11356-010-0336-9


Workshop of the German Environmental Specimen Bank

on monitoring of priority pollutants and emerging
substances in sewage sludge
Schmallenberg, Germany, June 24 to 25, 2009
Heinz Rdel & Karlheinz Weinfurtner & Jan Koschorreck

Received: 19 January 2010 / Accepted: 10 April 2010 / Published online: 28 April 2010
# Springer-Verlag 2010

1 Motivation and background

Each monitoring study examines only one fraction of the
pollutants in a sample, mostly a spectrum of currently
interesting compounds. Therefore, each monitoring ideally
should be combined with an archiving of the samples. This
would later allow a retrospective monitoring of such
substances that seemed to not be relevant for the current
investigations, or for which no validated analytical methods
were available. Due to such considerations, an environmental specimen bank (ESB) was established in Germany
(Umweltprobenbank (UPB)). It is based on a regular and
standardized collection of representative samples that are
archived for future investigations. Examples of retrospective monitoring investigations and the application of their
results for risk assessment of chemicals are already
documented for biota samples as well as for human
specimens retrieved from the UPB archive.
Today, major inputs into the environment occur via the
wastewater path by sewage treatment plants (STP). Thus,
several investigations were accomplished recently to characterize the contaminant pattern of STP sludges. Sludges
may also be potential sample material for an ESB. On
behalf of the UPB group of the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA), a workshop was organized to share
experiences with experts from sludge monitoring programs,
to balance the current state of research on the methodology
H. Rdel (*) : K. Weinfurtner
Fraunhofer IME,
57392 Schmallenberg, Germany
J. Koschorreck
Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt),
06813 Dessau-Rosslau, Germany

and to discuss the need for sludge investigations for

chemicals risk assessment. More than 30 scientists attended
the workshop at Fraunhofer IME in Schmallenberg in June
2009, and 11 participants presented their results and ideas
for discussion.

2 General considerations for a sludge monitoring within

an ESB context
M. Kolossa-Gehring (UBA) chaired a session that highlighted general conditions of a possible ESB sludge
J. Koschorreck (UBA) presented the conception of the
German UPB that was established to compile trends for
chemical safety. A network of sampling regions covers
coastal regions, major rivers, and representative terrestrial
ecosystems. ESBs become increasingly important, since
they can support chemical risk management, e.g., in the
context of REACH, the European Union (EU) chemicals
management system.1
S. Hahn (Fraunhofer ITEM) gave a presentation on
the application of sludge monitoring data for the
evaluation of chemicals in the context of current EU
regulations. So far, the assessment of environmental risks
of chemicals (e.g., personal care products and washing
and cleaning agents) is mainly based on modeled values.
However, measured concentrations can clearly deviate,
especially if models come to their borders. New EU
regulations such as the Biocidal Product Directive, and
The US-EPA is developing an amendment to a similar system, the
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA, called Tosca). The Toxic
Substances Control Act became law on October 11, 1976 and became
effective on January 1, 1977.


REACH, affect the application of chemicals and products

in the long run. Effects of taken measures for minimizing
risks (e.g., use restrictions) as well as of substitutions
would become verifiable with a retrospective monitoring
of archived sludges.
B. M. Gawlik (EU Joint Research Centre, Italy)
highlighted a monitoring concept for the determination of
background levels of priority and emerging pollutants by
the example of STP sludge. In the last 30 years, the EU
implemented several environmentally relevant guidelines.
These were accompanied by the implementation of harmonized quality standards for classical pollutants in different
media. Parallel to these regulations, an infrastructure for
monitoring these compounds was developed in EU member
states (e.g., Water Framework Directive). However, in
comparison, the information status for emerging substances
permits hardly an EU-wide overview. Therefore, a nonprobabilistic concept for providing EU-wide snapshots of
the occurrence of emerging substances in different matrices
was developed, which is now applied to STP sludges and

3 Experiences from sludge monitoring studies

M. Oberdrfer (LANUV North Rhine-Westphalia
(NRW)) reported on experiences from the sludge monitoring in NRW. Sludge from about 160 STPs was
analyzed for 70 organic compounds. The evaluation
revealed that ubiquitously occurring pollutants exhibited
only small temporal variations in their concentrations.
The characteristics of an STP catchment area, the applied
STP technology, or the kind of sludge treatment process
had only small influence on the pollutants' burden of the
sludge. On the other hand, for some compounds, it was
obvious that the procedure of sludge stabilization (aerobic/
anaerobic) is an important determining factor for pollutants' levels.
T. Kupper (Swiss College of Agriculture Berne)
described experiences from the sludge monitoring in
Switzerland. The multi-year program investigated 20
representative STPs covering, e.g., different STP sizes
as well as inputs from combined and separated sewage
systems. These investigations proved that sludge contains
a multiplicity of pollutants and is a suitable matrix for
the observation of anthropogenic emissions (Table 1).
B. Kuch (ISWA, University of Stuttgart) reported on
experiences from sludge investigations in BadenWuerttemberg. So-called xenoestrogens like Bisphenol A
or hydroxybiphenyls, which were quantified with an in
vitro test system, were nearly always detectable. Further
pollutants, so far less investigated in sludge, were
phosphorus-based flame retardants like trichloroethylene

Environ Sci Pollut Res (2010) 17:11831185

(chloroethyl)phosphate, benzothiazole derivatives, biocides

such as terbutryne and propiconazole, phenolic compounds
and stabilizers (e.g., Irganox 1076), or benzophenone
The speech of M. Letzel (LfU, Bavarian Environment
Agency) covered the monitoring of Bavarian STP sludges
for (dioxin-like) polychlorinated biphenyls, perfluorinated
compounds (PFCs) and possible substitutes, polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons, biocides such as triclosan, organotin compounds, brominated flame retardants, DEHP, and
substitutes, as well as alkylphenols. For PFCs, a broader
database was compiled since sludges, which are applied on
lands, are analyzed routinely. From about 800 sludge
samples, approximately 6% exceeded the precautionary
value for PFCs (125 g/kg dry weight).

4 Aspects of the practical implementation of an ESB

sludge monitoring
The third session was conceived as basis for the discussion
in working groups (WGs).
U. Eckhoff (LANUV NRW) reported on sludge sampling methodology. His remark, the sampler is responsible
for the digits before the decimal point, the analyst for those
behind it, stressed the importance of the sampling step.
Basis for the agricultural sludge utilization in Germany is a
Federal Sewage Sludge Regulation. Sludge sampling has to
follow the standard ISO 5667-13 (1997). Results in the
context of the NRW monitoring program showed that
sludge samples drawn from digestion towers were relatively
K. Weinfurtner (Fraunhofer IME) presented the protocol for the cryogenic processing of suspended particulate

Table 1 Pollutant levels (dry weight based) in sewage treatment plant

sludge samples from Switzerland (source: T. Kupper)

Pollutant groups

2 g/kg
4050 mg/kg
220 mg/kg

Linear alkylbenzene sulfonates

Nonylphenol ethoxylates, phthalates (e.g., DEHP)
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (sum of 16)
UV filter substances (e.g., methylbenzylidene

10500 g/kg

Synthetic fragrances (e.g., polycyclic musk

compounds like HHCB and AHTN)
Polychlorinated biphenyls (sum of 7 congeners)
Organochlorine pesticides (e.g., HCB and lindane)
Biocides (e.g., carbendazime and tributyltin)
Polybrominated flame retardants (PBDE and

Environ Sci Pollut Res (2010) 17:11831185

matter (SPM) applied for the UPB. Since the water

content of SPM is comparable to that of sewage sludge,
SPM has similar demands for sample treatment. Material
collected from SPM traps is frozen directly on site as a
thin layer over liquid nitrogen. Later on in the laboratory,
pooled SPM samples are freeze-dried (with active cooling to reduce thermal stress). Accompanying investigations confirmed the good homogeneity of archived SPM
A presentation by H. Rdel (Fraunhofer IME) summarized the requirements for sludge monitoring in an ESB
context. Important aspects are standardized sampling under
similar STP operation conditions at each occasion as well
as a reproducible sample processing excluding impairments
of chemical information in sludges. The long-term goal
would be to build up an ESB sludge archive which allows
the detection of concentration trends of chemicals (e.g.,
ingredients from personal care products) in time series of
comparable samples.

5 Working group discussions for the possible

implementation of a retrospective sludge monitoring
W. Krdel (Fraunhofer IME) chaired the WG on sludge
sampling aspects. The group suggested that primarily STPs in
regions with existing ESB river sampling sites should be
covered. A number of about ten STPs was seen as appropriate
for this purpose. It was stressed that samplings should always
be performed exclusively by qualified personnel. Concerning
the sample matrix, the WG agreed that it may not be sufficient
to only collect the sludge fraction. Instead, it was suggested
that both final products should be sampled, i.e., the sludge
(after anaerobic/aerobic treatment) and, if possible, also
effluent waters. The WG also discussed the extent of
necessary documentations of relevant parameters. For information on STP operating parameters, cooperation with the
plant operators was seen as essential.
The second WG, chaired by B. M. Gawlik, discussed
the preparation of sludge samples in the laboratory.
Participants agreed that an immediate freezing of the
sludge after sampling is most recommendable because
also with cooling, biological processes would continue,
and a change of the chemical composition could not be


excluded. For reduction of the water content, a cooled

freeze-drying device was recommended by the WG to
reduce possible losses of semi-volatile organic materials.
Requirements of sludge monitoring for use in risk
management of chemicals was discussed in the WG chaired
by J. Koschorreck. A sludge archive could be seen as a
useful addition to the archiving of biota. Such a scheme
would allow a better surveillance of the wastewater path,
which currently seems to be most important for the entry of
chemicals into the environment. Large benefits are expected
for the risk assessment of pharmaceuticals (optimally also
with coverage of STP effluents). An advantage of the STP
monitoring in the context of the UPB was also seen as
possibility of a non-target screening for unknown chemicals.

6 Recommendations from the workshop on sludge

After presentation of the results of the WGs, a synoptic
discussion was conducted. The potential of a sludge
monitoring and archiving in an ESB was acknowledged.
Also, most participants agreed with the recommendation to
consider not only sludge but also STP effluents. This would
provide a basis for the investigation of all potential STP
inputs into the environment and allow a large-scale
modeling of the flow of substances (if sufficient substance
data would be available). In addition, through an effluent
monitoring, a more direct linkage to the UPB biota
monitoring would be given. Participants emphasized that
by the high concentrations of chemicals in STPs, the
monitoring could also serve as an early warning system for
the environmental occurrence of chemicals. Finally, the
time frame for the possible implementation of a routine
sludge monitoring for the UPB was discussed. Generally, a
fast implementation was seen as desirable so that changes
of the application pattern of chemicals (e.g., by nonregistration of compounds and substitutions by others)
already caused by the REACH directive could be covered.
In the concluding session, the workshop was unanimously regarded as successful. A detailed workshop
report (in German) has been published at http://www.