USGS Ohio Water Science Center
Pharmaceuticals And Other Emerging Contaminants In Water
Although referred to as "emerging contaminants," many of these compounds were or have been in use for a long time and so their presence in water is not new. What is new; however, is our ability to effectively measure these contaminants at the very low concentrations that typically are found in surface and ground water, as well as the realization that some of the compounds are not removed by conventional wastewater and potable-water treatments. While adverse effects on aquatic organisms or humans have been documented for some of these compounds, the effects of long-term exposure to many of the compounds is not known, particularly since they can be present in complex mixtures.
Many studies of emerging contaminants have been done by the U.S. Geological SurveyToxic Substances Hydrology Program. In one national study, one or more of these contaminants were found in 80 percent of the 139 streams sampled in 30 states across the U.S.
In a regional USGS study in theGreat and Little Miami Basins, the presence of emerging contaminants in Ohio waters was documented. Of the 116 contaminants targeted during the study, 61 were detected at least once. Contaminants were present more frequently in surface-water than in ground-water samples.
The Occurrence of Organic Wastewater Compounds in the Tinkers Creek Watershed in Northeast Ohio
cooperation with Ohio Water Development Authority, City of Solon, City of
Bedford, City of Twinsburg, Portage County, City of Bedford Heights, Summit
County, National Park Service, and Ohio EPA.
Antibiotics and Wastewater Compounds in Source and Finished Drinking Water from the Upper Scioto River Basin, Central Ohio(In cooperation with the City of Columbus, Division of Power and Water.)
As a result of recent attention on the issue of emerging contaminants in public water supplies, the City of Columbus, Ohio, has received inquiries regarding the presence of antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, and other wastewater compounds in City water supplies. A national reconnaissance study completed during 1999-2000 revealed that a variety of compounds including antimicrobials, detergents, disinfectants, fragrances, fire retardants, prescription and non-prescription drugs, can enter streams and ground water. These wastewater compounds can be released into the environment by wastewater-treatment plants (WWTPs), animal feed lots (AFOs), discharges from industrial facilities, septic disposal systems, or from land application of sludge, biosolids, or animal waste. Little is known about the occurrence, fate, or transport of these compounds and the possible health effects linked to human and aquatic life. Some of these compounds are endocrine disruptors and have been linked to negative hormonal and toxic effects in aquatic organisms; others are suspected of increasing antibiotic resistance in bacteria in the environment.
Eighty-five percent of the City’s annual water supply (roughly 27 billion gallons of water) is drawn from three reservoirs in the Upper Scioto River Basin. This portion of the basin contains several large WWTPs and AFOs that discharge into the Scioto River. On the basis of previous studies and the belief that wastewater contaminants are derived from both urban and agricultural sources (including treated sewage effluent and runoff from AFOs), the potential exists for wastewater contaminants to be present in source waters in the Basin used to supply drinking waters to residents.
The objectives of this project are to determine the occurrence and concentration of antibiotics and wastewater compounds in source waters from the Upper Scioto River Basin, and determine if antibiotics and wastewater compounds are present in drinking-water supplies before and after treatment.
The study includes the following:
More information regarding emerging contaminants and other USGS projects can be obtained by contacting Greg Koltun at firstname.lastname@example.org or (614) 430-7708.