Quantitative ecotoxicological impacts of sewage treatment plant effluents on plankton productivity and assimilative capacity of rivers

Bernhard Karrasch, Omer Horovitz, Helge Norf, Noa Hillel, Ora Hadas, Yaron Beeri-Shlevin, Jonathan B. Laronne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Sewage treatment plants are sources of inorganic and organic matter as well as contaminants for the receiving watercourses. We analyzed the ecological consequences of such effluents by following a holistic and synecological ecotoxicological approach based on quantifying extracellular enzyme activities (EEA), primary production and bacterial cell, and biomass production rates. Samples were obtained at three locations at the Rivers Holtemme and Elbe, Germany and Lower Jordan River, Israel and West Bank, as well as from their adjacent sewage treatment plants. Blending river samples with sewage treatment plant effluents mainly resulted in a stimulation of EEAs, which was diminished in blends with 0.2-μm filtered sewage treatment plant effluents. Stimulation for primary production and bacterial cell and biomass production of River Holtemme and Elbe samples was observed, and inhibition of these rates for Lower Jordan River samples probably linked to generally high turbidity. The quantified bacterial biomass versus cell production rates showed almost unbalanced (≫ 1) growth. Very high biomass to cell production ratios were found for sewage and sewage-containing samples, which provides a semi-quantitative indicator function for high quantities of microbial easy utilizable dissolved organic matter as nutrition source. The presented approach enables the simultaneous quantification of inhibitory and stimulating toxic responses as well as supplying ecosystem-based data for policy decision-making, and for direct incorporation in models to derive management and remediation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24034-24049
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number23
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Bacterial production
  • Extracellular enzyme activity
  • Primary production
  • Quantitative ecotoxicology
  • Sewage effluents
  • Unbalanced bacterial growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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