, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 321–332 | Cite as

Long-term transport behavior of psychoactive compounds in sewage-affected groundwater

  • Hang Thuy Thi Nham
  • Janek Greskowiak
  • Enrico Hamann
  • Raffaella Meffe
  • Ulrike Hass
  • Gudrun Massmann


The present study provides a model-based characterization of the long-term transport behavior of five psychoactive compounds (meprobamate, pyrithyldione, primidone, phenobarbital and phenylethylmalonamide) introduced into groundwater via sewage irrigation in Berlin, Germany. Compounds are still present in the groundwater despite the sewage farm closure in the year 1980. Due to the limited information on (i) compound concentrations in the source water and (ii) substance properties, a total of 180 cross-sectional model realizations for each compound were carried out, covering a large range of possible parameter combinations. Results were compared with the present-day contamination patterns in the aquifer and the most likely scenarios were identified based on a number of model performance criteria. The simulation results show that (i) compounds are highly persistent under the present field conditions, and (ii) sorption is insignificant. Thus, back-diffusion from low permeability zones appears as the main reason for the compound retardation.


Sewage farm Long-term groundwater pollution Psychoactive drugs Transport behaviour Field scale reactive transport modelling 

Langzeittransportverhalten von psychoaktiven Substanzen in einem abwasserbeeinflussten Grundwasserleiter


Die vorliegende Studie untersucht mit modellbasierten Methoden das Langzeitverhalten von 5 psychoaktiven Substanzen (Meprobamat, Pyrithyldion, Primidon, Phenobarbital und Phenylethylmalonamid) im Grundwasser abstromig eines ehemaligen Rieselfeldes in Berlin. Trotz der Einstellung der Abwasserverrieselung im Jahre 1980 finden sich die Substanzen noch in messbaren Konzentrationen im Grundwasser. Aufgrund der spärlichen Datenlage bezüglich (i) der historischen Konzentrationen im verdieseltem Abwasser und (ii) Abbaubarkeit und Sorptionseigenschaften, wurden mit einem Grundwasserströmung- und Transportmodell des Standorts 180 Realisationen zur Abbildung einer großen Zahl möglicher Parameterkombinationen und des Einflusses auf das Ausbreitungsverhalten pro Substanz durchgeführt. Mit Hilfe verschiedener Modellanpassungskriterien wurden die wahrscheinlichsten Szenarien identifiziert. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass (i) die Substanzen unter den vorliegenden Feldbedingungen extrem persistent sind und (ii) Sorption nicht signifikant ist. Die beobachtete starke Retardation der Substanzen im Aquifer scheint alleine durch eine langsame Rückdiffusion aus ehemalig kontaminierten, hydraulisch schlechtdurchlässigen Zonen unterhalb des Rieselfeldes begründet zu sein.



The field data on the psychoactive substances was provided by the Berliner Wasserbetriebe (BWB) and is greatly acknowledged. The modeling work was financed by the Ministry of Education and Training of Vietnam (MOET, DA-322). We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions to improve this manuscript.

Supplementary material

767_2016_336_MOESM1_ESM.docx (79 kb)
Nash-Sutcliffe and RMS values for all compounds and model scenarios


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hang Thuy Thi Nham
    • 1
  • Janek Greskowiak
    • 1
  • Enrico Hamann
    • 2
  • Raffaella Meffe
    • 3
  • Ulrike Hass
    • 4
  • Gudrun Massmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Biology and Environmental SciencesCarl von Ossietzky Universität OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  2. 2.GeoDienste GmbHGarbsenGermany
  3. 3.Instituto Madrileño de Estudios AvanzadoAvenida Punto Com 2Alcalá de Henares, MadridSpain
  4. 4.Bezirksamt ReinickendorfBerlinGermany

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