There are limited studies on the fate and levels of endocrine disrupting chemicals in sewage treatment plants in Australia. Research undertaken in Europe and North America has shown biologically significant levels of both oestrogenic and androgenic chemicals in sewage effluent. The aim of this work was to determine the oestrogenic and androgenic activities of raw and treated sewage from sewage treatment plants run by MidCoast Water, New South Wales, Australia. Oestrogenic and androgenic activities were measured using a yeast screen bioassay. Results showed that the raw effluent contained biologically significant levels of both oestrogenic (0.58–2.91 ng/l) and androgenic (216–480 ng/l) activities. Androgenic activity was significantly higher than oestrogenic activity, which was consistent with other Australian studies and was attributed to the higher levels of androgens in domestic waste from human excretion compared to oestrogens. Secondary treatment (using activated sludge) removed the majority of the oestrogenic and androgenic activity (up to 99%). Tertiary treatment by UV removed varying levels of oestrogenic (19–69%) and androgenic (5–55%) activities. A Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) at one of the STPs, which consists of an MBR followed by electrochlorination removed over 87% of the oestrogenic activity and over 98% of androgenic activity from raw sewage samples. However, levels which could be biologically significant still remained after secondary and tertiary treatment (>0.1 ng/l oestrogenic activity and >1 ng/l androgenic activity).

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