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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

Investigations - Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment

Platte River, Nebraska

USGS facilities map in NebraskaKnown or suspected endocrine-disrupting compounds have been detected in water from streams, groundwater, and drinking water. In 2001 and 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Lincoln, Nebraska, collected various environmental water samples from the City of Lincoln well field and nearby surface waters to evaluate (1) the sources (samples were collected from a lagoon at two animal feeding operations and from the effluent of a wastewater treatment plant) and temporal variations of known or suspected endocrine disrupters, pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other emerging contaminants and (2) the fate and transport of these compounds from the Platte River through an alluvial aquifer into water from wells used for drinking water. Environmental samples were analyzed for more than 150 dissolved compounds, including herbicides and their metabolites; personal-care products; prescription and nonprescription drugs; and industrial compounds. In addition, batch and undisturbed column experiments are being done (1) to determine differences in transport and attenuation of selected contaminants in riverbed sediments with different hydrologic conditions and (2) to assess attenuation processes. Samples of batch and column experiments will be analyzed for atrazine, alachlor, alachlor ethylsulfonic acid, sulfamethoxazole, sulfathiazole, trymethoprin, lyncomycin, erythromycine, chlortetracycline, and 17- â -estradiol. Preliminary results show that pesticides as well as numerous other organic compounds are released into the environment throughout the year. Sources of organic compounds include animal feeding operations and a wastewater-treatment plant with cumulative concentrations of (1) pesticides up to 3 µg/L in water from a wastewater-treatment plant, (2) organic wastewater compounds of more than 1,000 µg/L in water from a lagoon of an animal feeding operation, and (3) pharmaceuticals of more than 10 µg/L in water from a lagoon at an animal feeding operation in February 2002. Moreover, preliminary results of the study also indicate that some organic chemicals can travel readily through more than 30 meters of riverine sediments mainly consisting of sands and gravels. Indirectly, preliminary results of the study also indicate that numerous organic compounds released by point and nonpoint sources readily can degrade or be adsorbed in the environment prior to reaching drinking-water intakes given enough travel time for degradation and adsorption to take place. Nevertheless, at times, given the right conditions, contaminants can be transported along with surface water into groundwater, potentially contaminating drinking water. Contamination of a water supply can occur at parts per trillion or parts per billion levels depending upon the drinking-water treatment processes used by the affected drinking-water utility.

Available Publications

Vogel, J.R., Verstraeten, I.M., Coplen, T.B, Furlong, E.T., Meyer, M.T., and Barber, L.B., 2005, Occurrence of selected pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical compounds, and stable hydrogen and oxygen isotope ratios, in a riverbank filtration study, Platte River, Nebraska, 2001 to 2003, Volume 1: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 117, 64 p.

Verstraeten, I., Meyer, M.T., Skopp, J., Speth, T., Obrist, J.G., and Vogel, J.R., 2003, Sources, temporal variations, and fate and transport of selected endocrine disruption compounds and pharmaceuticals, Nebraska, USA: 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. 292.

More Information

  • Project contact: Jason Vogel
  • For additional information on USGS water programs in Nebraska:

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