The occurrence and the partitioning of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and seven metals (Al, Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn) were investigated in activated sludge wastewater treatment plants by means of passive and active sampling. Concentrations total dissolved and particulate contaminants were determined in wastewater at several points across the treatment system by means of grab sampling. Truly dissolved PAHs were sampled by means of semipermeable membrane devices. Labile (inorganic and weakly complexed) dissolved metals were also sampled using the diffusive gradient in thin film technique. This study confirms the robustness and the validity of these two passive sampling techniques in wastewater. All contaminant concentrations decreased in wastewater along the treatment, although dissolved and labile concentrations sometimes increased for substances with less affinity with organic matter. Solid–liquid and dissolved organic matter/water partitioning constants were estimated. The high variability of both partitioning constants for a simple substance and the poor relation between KD and KOW shows that the binding capacities of particles and organic matter are not uniform within the treatment and that other process than equilibrium sorption affect contaminant repartition and fate in wastewater.

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