Submitted to: Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/15/2013
Publication Date: 7/12/2013
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/57062
Citation: Shappell, N.W. 2013. Egg wash wastewater: Estrogenic risk or environmental asset? Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. 9(3):517-523. Interpretive Summary: A layer hen facility with 1.6 million birds produces about 1.4 million eggs per day and uses about 18,000 gallons of water for egg washing. Wash water is used for crop irrigation after treatment, but the estrogenic hormonal activity of the water applied for irrigation is unknown. A study was conducted to determine estrogenic activity in egg wash water because it could be a source of hormonal activity in the environment. The study convincingly showed that estrogenic activity in the waste water decreased as water progressed through lagoon treatment. In fact, by the time water reached the terminal lagoon, estrogenic activity had dropped well below levels of environmental concern. At this facility, utilization of egg wash wastewater to irrigate crops, removes the cost of wastewater treatment by the local wastewater plant, poses little to no potential threat of estrogenic endocrine disruption, and supports the conservation of water resources through the use of wastewater irrigation.
Technical Abstract: Commercial production of eggs and egg products requires the washing of eggs to remove urinary / fecal material and broken egg residue. In the case of one Ohio farming facility, 1.6 million birds produce 1.4 million eggs per day, using ~50mL of wash water / egg or ~ 70,000 liters per day. The aqueous waste stream was evaluated for estrogenicity, to determine if potential for endocrine disruption would result from agricultural application of such wastewater. Samples collected the fall of 2010 included: water from two egg washers operating in series, inlet pipe to the treatment lagoon, a lagoon composite, and products used within the facility in the cleaning of equipment and treatment of the waste. In February of 2011 the treatment lagoon was fitted with an extensive aeration system and subsequent sample sets were collected on three consecutive days in May and November. Samples were extracted by solid phase extraction and assayed for estrogenic activity using the in vitro E-Screen assay. Raw untreated wastewater from the egg washers contained 17 beta-estradiol equivalents (E2EqS) ranging from 9 to 18 ng / L, while treatment lagoon water contained 0.3 to 4.0 ng / L E2Eq . Addition of an aeration system to the treatment lagoon eliminated surface "frothing," reduced noxious odor emission, and E2Eqs were lower than the pre-aeration concentrations (4 ng / L (n=1, no statistical comparison possible) versus 0.3 to 1.4 ng/L in 2011). Estrogens were not detectable by LC-MS2 in egg wash water extracts at concentrations which internal deuterated estrogen standards were quantifiable. The estrogenicity of the wastewater from the treatment lagoon was already at the proposed aquatic No Effect Concentration (NOEC) for E2. Wastewater contained in the treatment lagoon passes through two consecutive storage ponds prior to application on field crops for irrigation. The original project plan was to follow the wastewater as it was applied by aerial irrigation and concomitant surface runoff, but based on the consistent and extremely low concentration of estrogenic activity of the wastewater from the treatment lagoon, it was concluded that activity would be below limits of quantitation by E-Screen in water used for irrigation from the storage ponds. Utilization of egg wash wastewater - or gray water - to irrigate crops, removes the cost and burden of wastewater treatment by the local wastewater plant, poses little to no potential threat of estrogenic endocrine disruption, supports the conservation of water resources through the use of wastewater irrigation.