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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

Investigations - Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment

National Ground-Water Reconnaissance

Water samples were collected from a network of 47 groundwater sites across 18 states in 2000.

Map of the united states with groundwater sites labeled

These samples were analyzed for 65 emerging contaminants using three research methods developed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Site selection focused on a variety of geohydrologic areas suspected to be susceptible to contamination from either animal or human wastewaters and were in aquifers not necessarily used as a source of drinking water. The network consisted of 42 wells, 3 springs, and 2 sumps with varied uses: observation/monitoring, domestic and municipal supply, and irrigation. Well depths ranged from 2.4 to 310.9 meters, with a median well depth of 19.2 meters. The concentrations of chemicals detected were low. Eighty-seven percent of the 137 measured detections were less than 1 microgram per liter (µg/L). Mixtures of chemicals were common.The results of this study support the assertion that many emerging contaminants are persistent and mobile and can be transported to groundwater. Future research will be needed to identify those factors that are most important in determining the occurrence and concentrations of emerging contaminants in groundwater.

Available Publications

Barnes, K.K., Kolpin, D.W., Furlong, E.T., Zaugg, S.D., Meyer, M.T., and Barber, L.B., 2008, A national reconnaissance of pharmaceuticals and other organic wastewater contaminants in the United States--I. Groundwater: Science of the Total Environment, v. 402, no. 2-3, p. 192-200, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.04.028.

Barnes, K.K., D.W. Kolpin, E.T. Furlong, S.D. Zaugg, M.T. Meyer, L.B Barber, and M.J. Focazio. 2005. Studies examine contaminants: Pharmaceuticals, hormones and other organic wastewater contaminants in ground water resources. National Driller Magazine Vol. 26, No. 3, March 2005, p. 38-39.

Barnes, K.K., Kolpin, D.W., Furlong, E.T., Zaugg, S.D., Meyer, M.T., Barber, L.B., and Focazio, M.J. 2004. Pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants in ground water resources, in Proceedings of Groundwater Foundataion Annual Conference and Groundwater Guardian Designation, Making the Connection Groundwater and Public Health, November 4-5, 2004, Washington DC, p. 24-30.

Focazio, M.J., Kolpin, D.W., and Buxton, H., 2003, Pharmaceuticals, hormones, personal-care products, and other organic wastewater contaminants in water resources -- recent research activities of the U.S. Geological Survey's Toxic Substances Hydrology Program: GeoHealth News, v. 2, no. 1, September 2003, p. 3-7.

Focazio, M.J., Kolpin, D.W., Furlong, E.T., 2004, Occurrence of human pharmaceuticals in water resources in the United States--A review, in Kummerer, K., ed., Pharmaceuticals in the environment--Sources, fate, effects, and risks, 2nd Edition, Springer-Verlag, pp. 91-102.

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