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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

Research Projects - Emerging Contaminants

Wastewater Treatment Plants

At 10 locations across the United States, water samples were collected upstream, and at two successive points downstream from municipal wastewater-treatment facilities; a treated effluent sample also was collected at each location. This sampling plan was used to determine the persistence of selected emerging contaminants in streams receiving wastewater effluent. Samples also were collected at two reference locations with minimal human impacts. Of the 103 emerging contaminants investigated in this project, 78 were found in at least one sample. The number of compounds in a given sample ranged from 2 at a reference location to 50 in an effluent sample The concentrations of the majority of the chemicals present in the samples generally followed the expected trend: they were either below detection or at trace levels in the upstream samples, had their maximum concentrations in the wastewater effluent samples, and then declined in the two downstream samples. In addition to providing information on the numbers and concentrations of emerging contaminants originating from municipal wastewater effluent, this research is being used to determine which targeted analytes can be useful as tracers of human wastewater discharge. This research is a collaborative effort with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Sampling locations - 2002

Diel Variability in a Wastewater Treatment Plant

Temporal design graph

Diel Variability figure

With support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, staff from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Water Conservation Laboratory, developed a study to determine the temporal occurrence and persistence of emerging contaminants in an effluent-dependent stream. Over a 24-hour period coinciding with low, rising, peak (2), and falling streamflow at each of four sites, the Santa Cruz River near Tucson was sampled for emerging contaminants. Sampling sites included the outfall (0 km) of a municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), a flume (6.8 km downstream of the outfall), the first Santa Cruz River site (9.7 km downstream from the outfall) and a second Santa Cruz River site (21.1 km downstream from the outfall site). Samples were analyzed for 102 emerging contaminants. The presence of several indicator bacteria and pathogens was determined by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analyses.

Project Headlines

Available Publications

Cordy, G., Duran, N., Anning, D., Furlong, E., Zaugg, S., and Kolpin, D., 2004, Temporal occurrence and persistence of pharmaceuticals, pathogens, and other wastewater compounds in an effluent-dependent stream, Tuscon, Arizona: in Proceedings of the 4nd International conference on pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting chemicals in water, Minneapolis, Minn., National Ground Water Association, October 13-15, 2004, CD-ROM, p. 75-77.

Glassmeyer, S.T., Ferrer, I., Furlong, E.T., Cahill, J.D., Zaugg, S.D., Kolpin, D.W., and Kryak, D.D., 2003, Transport of chemical and microbial contaminants from known wastewater discharges: in Proceedings of the 3rd International conference on pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting chemicals in water, Minneapolis, Minn., National Ground Water Association, March 19-21, 2003, CD-ROM, p. 267-269.

Glassmeyer, S.T., Furlong, E.T, Kolpin, D.W., Cahill, J.D., Zaugg, S.D., Werner, S.L., Meyer, M.T., Kryak, D.D., 2005, Transport of chemical and microbial compounds from known wastewater discharges: Potential for use as indicators of human fecal contamination: Environmental Science and Technology, v. 39, no. 14, p. 5157-5169.

Glassmeyer, S.T., Furlong, E.T., Kolpin, D.W., Ferrer, I., Cahill, J.D., Zaugg, S.D., Werner, S.L., and Kryak, D.D., 2004, Persistence of pharmaceuticals and other wastewater related compounds: in Proceedings of the 4nd International conference on pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting chemicals in water, Minneapolis, Minn., National Ground Water Association, October 13-15, 2004, CD-ROM, p. 42-43.

Kolpin, D.W., Thurman, E.M., Lee, E.A., Meyer, M.T., Furlong, E.T., and Glassmeyer, S.T., 2006, Urban contributions of glyphosate and its degradate AMPA to streams in the United States: Science of the Total Environment, v. 354, no. 2-3, p. 191-197, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2005.01.028

The flume of the Ina Road wastewater treatment plant at mile 4.2 of the study reach on the Santa Cruz River, AZ. The samples collected at this site and three others were analyzed for 102 emerging contaminants

The flume of the Ina Road wastewater treatment plant at mile 4.2 of the study reach on the Santa Cruz River, AZ. The samples collected at this site and three others were analyzed for 102 emerging contaminants

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