Wastewater aeration basins at publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) can be emission sources for gaseous or aerosolized sewage material. In the present study, particle and gas phase emissions of synthetic musks from covered and uncovered aeration basins were measured. Galaxolide (HHCB), tonalide (AHTN), and celestolide (ADBI) were the most abundant, ranging from 6704 to 344,306 ng m-3, 45-3816 ng m-3, and 2-148 ng m-3 in the gas phase with particle phase concentrations 3 orders of magnitude lower. The musk species were not significantly removed from the exhaust air by an odor control system, yielding substantial daily emission fluxes (∼200 g d-1 for HHCB) into the atmosphere. However, simple dispersion modeling showed that the treatment plants are unlikely to be a major contributor to ambient air concentrations of these species. Emission of synthetic musk species during wastewater treatment is a substantial fate process; more than 14% of the influent HHCB is emitted to the atmosphere in a POTW as opposed to the <1% predicted by an octanol-water partition coefficient and fugacity-based US EPA fate model. The substantial atmospheric emission of these compounds is most likely due to active stripping that occurs in the aeration basins by bubbling air through the sludge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1071-1078
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Aeration basin
  • Atmospheric emissions
  • Odor control
  • Publicly owned treatment works
  • Synthetic musks
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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