Seasonal variations in stable nitrate isotopes combined with stable water isotopes in a wastewater treatment plant: Implications for nitrogen sources and transformation

Hyejung Jung, Yun S. Kim, Jisu Yoo, Bumsung Park, Jeonghoon Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

A multi-isotopes approach involving the use of stable nitrate isotopes (δ15NNO3 and δ18ONO3) combined with stable water isotopes (δ18OH2O and δ2HH2O) as tracers can help identify the nitrogen source and understand the transformation process in a river water system. In this study, we identify the potential impact of the N source in the effluent discharged from a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) on the surrounding stream and clarified the seasonal variations in the isotope values of the effluent and stream water from 2019 to 2020 in South Korea. In addition, we investigate the factors that led to the seasonal variations of the stable isotopes and evaluated the relationship between the uncertainty of the contribution ratio of the N sources and isotopic variations in the river water system. To examine the potential impact of the inputs of N from the WWTP, samples were obtained from the stream (up and down with respect to the WWTP) and WWTP (influent and treated effluent) once a month. For the monthly effluent samples, δ18OH2O and δ2HH2O ranged from –9.37‰ to –8.68‰ and from –65.29‰ to –59.37‰, respectively, exhibiting isotopic depletion in wet season and enrichment in dry season. Moreover, in the effluent, δ15NNO3 and δ18ONO3 ranged from 10.56‰ to 16.60‰ and –4.86‰ to –0.35‰, respectively. To clarify the seasonal variation in the effluent, high-resolution samples of the influent and treated effluent were obtained every day in September 2019. It is noted that δ15NNO3 in the effluent was influenced by the N source instead of the seasonal variation, although δ18ONO3 exhibited a high dependence on the seasonal effects, influenced by δ18OH2O. When estimating the contribution of the effluent using isotope values to the water system, uncertainty could arise due to these seasonal variations. Overall, a multi-isotope approach involving the combined use of stable nitrate isotopes (δ15NNO3 and δ18ONO3) and stable water isotopes (δ18OH2O and δ2HH2O) as tracers can help evaluate the potential impact of N sources on water systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126488
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume599
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Multi-isotope approach
  • Stable nitrate isotopes
  • Stable water isotopes
  • Wastewater treatment plant

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