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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

Investigations - Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment

Water Resources of Minnesota

This pilot study was designed to identify and measure a limited set of emerging contaminants in aqueous environmental samples in Minnesota during 2000-2002. Sixty-five sites were sampled including wastewater treatment plant influent and effluent, landfill leachate, feedlot lagoon leachate, surface water, ground water, raw drinking water, and finished drinking water. Samples were collected once at all sites and multiple times at 30 sites to assess temporal variability. Emerging contaminants detected (74 of the 91 compounds analyzed) represent a variety of sources demonstrating the broad distribution of potential sources. Samples generally included a mixture of compounds averaging 6 compounds per sample and 90 percent of the samples had at least one emerging contaminant detected. Concentrations generally were less than 3 µg/L (micrograms per liter) and ranged from 0.003 to 1,000 µg/L.

The average number of emerging contaminants detected was greatest in wastewater influent and effluent, landfill leachate, and ground water underlying a waste dump (41, 27, 34, and 14 compounds, respectively), and least in ground and drinking water (1 and 2, respectively). The number of compounds detected in surface water varied with site proximity to wastewater effluent discharge. Stream sites located directly downstream of wastewater treatment plant discharge had a greater average number of detections (9) than sites not in direct proximity to wastewater discharge (4). Thirteen emerging contaminants detected in this study are documented endocrine disrupters; however, few aquatic or human health standards exist for the compounds analyzed, so the risks to humans and ecosystems are not known.

Available Publications

Writer, J.H., Ferrer, I., Barber, L.B., and Thurman, E.M., 2013, Widespread occurrence of neuro-active pharmaceuticals and metabolites in 24 Minnesota rivers and wastewaters: Science of the Total Environment, v. 461-462, p. 519-527, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.04.099.

Lee, K.E., Langer, S.K., Barber, L.B., Writer, J.H., Ferrey, M.L., Schoenfuss, H.L., Furlong, E.T., Foreman, W.T., Gray, J.L., ReVello, R.C., Martinovic, D., Woodruff, O.R., H., K.S., Brown, G.K., Taylor, H.E., Ferrer, I., and Thurman, E.M., 2011, Endocrine active chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals of concern in surface water, wastewater-treatment plant effluent, and bed sediment, and biological characteristics in selected streams, Minnesota—Design, methods, and data, 2009: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 575, 49 p.

Martinović-Weigelt, D., Mehinto, A.C., Ankley, G.T., Denslow, N.D., Barber, L.B., Lee, K.E., King, R.J., Schoenfuss, H.L., Schroeder, A.L., and Villeneuve, D.L., 2014, Transcriptomic effects-based monitoring for endocrine active chemicals--Assessing relative contribution of treated wastewater to downstream pollution: Environmental Science and Technology, v. 48, no. 4, p. 2385-2394, doi:10.1021/es404027n.

Lee, K.E., Barber, L.B., Cahill, J.D., Furlong E.T., Kolpin, D.W., Meyer, M.T., Zaugg, S.D., 2004, Presence and distribution of organic wastewater compounds in wastewater, surface, ground, and drinking waters, Minnesota, 2000-02: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific-Investigations Report 2004-5138.

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