New study highlights need for monitoring of micropollutants in urban wastewater

Land-based pollution and maritime activities puts the coastal zones of the Baltic Sea under a high anthropogenic pressure. In a new study on micropollutants in wastewater emitted in the Baltic Sea catchment, the need for broad scope monitoring of micropollutants in wastewater around the Baltic Sea is highlighted.

A wide range of chemicals, often called micropollutants, are present in water bodies due to human activities. One important type of pathway from urban areas to the aquatic environment is wastewater treatment plants. The new study provides large-scale emission estimates and analysis of measured concentrations of micropollutants present in wastewater treatment plant effluents in the Baltic Sea. The data on micropollutants in wastewater is useful for both national and Baltic Sea-scale risk assessments.

But the study also highlights information gaps regarding emissions of a broader range of micropollutants and that there are large differences in data availability in the Baltic Sea countries. Broad scope monitoring of micropollutants in wastewater is needed to assess the environmental risk posed to the Baltic Sea environment by wastewater treatment plant mediated emissions.

We would like to see more countries analyze a wider range of substances, to get a better idea of what is actually present in the wastewater.

Says Emma Undeman in a Baltic Breakfast on the topic.

1090 micropollutants analysed at 650 wastewater treatment plants

Emma Undeman. Photo: Henrik Hamrén.

The data compiled in the new study includes 1090 different micropollutants analysed at 650 wastewater treatment plants. The study is part of the research project CHEMPACT and authored by the project's researchers: Baltic Sea Centre researchers Emma Undeman and Kristina Rasmusson, et. al. The authors of the study are affiliated with research institutes from Sweden, Finland, Poland, Latvia and Denmark.

Please contact Emma Undeman,, if you are interested in the CHEMPACT database.

Read the full study here, published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin (2022): Micropollutants in urban wastewater: Large-scale emission estimates and analysis of measured concentrations in the Baltic Sea catchment

Read the Baltic Sea Centre policy brief authored by the CHEMPACT researchers

Learn about the research project CHEMPACT

Wasterwater pipe
Photo: Vastram/Mostphotos.

The research project CHEMPACT compiles published data on measured concentrations of contaminants in wastewater emitted in the Baltic Sea drainage basin, analyses and visualizes the data and reviews effects associated with pollutants in wastewater.

Urban wastewater treatment plants function as collection points for these pollutants, and the CHEMPACT project studies how the effluents from these plants are analyzed in different countries and what chemicals they contain.

CHEMPACT is managed by Emma Undeman and among the members in the project are researchers from several countries around the Baltic Sea. Participating institutions in the research project are the Stockholm University Baltic Sea Centre, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Aarhus University - Institute of Bioscience, Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IOPAN), and the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Center.

Go to the research project webpage