Publication - Complex substances aquatic risk assessment (CSARA)
15 Nov 2016

Fate of free and linear alcohol-ethoxylate-derived fatty alcohols in activated sludge


Pure homologues of [1- 14C] C12, C14, and C16 alcohols and the linear alcohol ethoxylates, AE [1- 14C alkyl] C13E9 and C16E9 were tested in a batch-activated sludge die-away system to assess their biodegradation kinetics and to predict levels of free alcohol derived from AE biodegradation in treated effluent. First-order rates for primary biodegradation were similar for all alcohols (86–113 h1) and were used to predict removal under typical treatment conditions. Predicted removals of fatty alcohols ranged from 99.76% to 99.85%, consistent with published field data. During the biodegradation of the AE homologues, lower than expected levels of fatty alcohol based upon the assumption that biodegradation occurs through central fission were observed. Rather than fatty alcohols, the major metabolites were polar materials resulting from omega oxidation of the alkyl chain prior to or concurrent with central cleavage. The amounts of free fatty alcohols that were formed from AEs in influent and escape into effluent were negligible due both to their rapid degradation and to the finding that formation of free alcohol through central cleavage is only a minor degradation pathway in activated sludge.