Organic Trace Substances Relevant for Drinking Water – Assessing their Elimination through Bank Filtration. Project acronym: TRACE


In the initial phase of the project “Organic Trace Substances Relevant for Drinking Water – Assessing their Elimination through Bank Filtration (TRACE)” the total herbicide glyphosate was classified as highly relevant for further investigations [Chorus & Wessel 2007]. Glyphosate is one of the most widely used and distributed herbicides in the world. Even though it has been on the market since 1974 its use increased with the expiry of the patent at the beginning of the 1990s, in the context of “soil conserving” agriculture (no ploughing) and with the introduction of glyphosate resistant, genetically manipulated cultures like corn, soy beans and cotton wool in 1997. To estimate the occurrence of glyphosate and its main metabolite AMPA in the surroundings of Berlin samples from 22 surface water sites were analysed within this study. In 5 samples the glyphosate concentration was above the European threshold for herbicides of 0.1 µg/L in drinking water. Up to 70 % of Berlin’s drinking water is produced via bank filtration and aquifer recharge characterized by comparatively low flow velocities (< 1 m/d), long contact times (3-6 months) and mainly anoxic redox conditions. To evaluate the potential of bank filtration to protect the drinking water from glyphosate contaminations an experimental study was conducted in the second phase of the TRACE project. Three enclosures at the UBA’s center for aquatic simulations were dosed with three different concentration levels (average concentration: 0.7, 3.5 and 11.6 µg/L) over a time period of 14 days. The effluent was sampled daily for 34 days. Glyphosate and AMPA were analysed applying the HPLC method according to the German Standard DIN 38407-22/2001. In parallel the applicability of the ELISA kit of the company Abraxis was tested without adequate results. The one-dimensional substance transport model VisualCXTFit was applied to obtain substance specific parameters of glyphosate and hydrodynamic parameters of the filter substrate from observed and measured breakthrough curves. The obtained results show that the breakthrough of glyphosate was retarded remarkably (retardation coefficient (R): 18.3 to 25) despite of the initially postulated low adsorption potential of the sandy filter substrate. Also a significant reduction, probably due to degradation was observed (1st order decay-rate (alpha): 0.069 to 0.092 d-1). In addition to the semi-technical scale enclosure experiments laboratory and lysemeter tests were carried out to investigate the processes responsible for glyphosate removal during subsurface passage. The laboratory experiments yielded a KF-value of 1.8998 mgLkg-1 and a Freundlich exponent of 0.4805, from which a retardation coefficient of 53.4 was calculated for a glyphosate concentration of 20 µg/L. Furthermore, delayed degradation under sub-oxic conditions could be observed. The lysemeter experiments ensured no glyphosate breakthrough in the effluent of a 2 m thick column of fine to medium sandy material within 7 months. The data obtained in this project prove that there is a potential of bank filtration to eliminate the herbicide glyphosate: Taking into account that glyphosate concentrations in surface water are highly variable a good protection of the drinking water source by bank filtration especially in respect to peak concentration is ensured. However, adsorption and degradation parameters obtained in the laboratory and semi-technical experiments vary significantly due to the difficulty to imitate natural conditions in the laboratory. Therefore the experimental study of the project TRACE emphasises the need to conduct semi-technical experiments in a near-natural environment to evaluate the risk of contamination.