Molecular Tracers of Contaminant Sources to Surface Water Drinking Supplies

EPA Grant Number: R828159
Title: Molecular Tracers of Contaminant Sources to Surface Water Drinking Supplies
Investigators: Standley, Laurel J. , Kaplan, Louis A. , Newbold, J. Denis
Institution: Stroud Water Research Center, Inc
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: July 1, 2000 through December 31, 2001 (Extended to December 31, 2002)
Project Amount: $220,000
RFA: Exploratory Research - Engineering, Chemistry, and Physics) (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Engineering and Environmental Chemistry , Water , Land and Waste Management , Air


The objective of this research is to develop a more quantitative method for apportioning the contribution of contaminants from point source effluents and nonpoint source runoff to surface waters that are drinking water supplies (e.g., rivers and reservoirs). In preliminary research, we developed a suite of molecular tracers for several potential contaminant sources that included waste water treatment plants, agricultural runoff, urban/suburban runoff, and wildlife. Although accurate, the molecular tracer method is not yet quantitative. We hypothesize that: (1) unique compounds, i.e. molecular tracers, that are constituents of runoff or effluent of contaminant sources reflect the contribution of these sources to contaminant budgets in drinking water supplies; (2) although the in-stream fate of contaminants and corresponding molecular tracers may differ, selection of more than one tracer can strengthen quantification of contaminant sources; and (3) threshold values for molecular tracers can be determined that are predictive for unacceptable levels of contamination (i.e. contaminant threshold values).


Our approach is threefold: (1) concentrations and relative proportions of molecular tracers will be determined for contaminant sources; (2) the distribution of tracers in various riverine compartments (e.g. water column, suspended particles, and sediments) will be measured in receiving waters of study streams; and (3) transport and transformation processes that control the riverine fate of the molecular tracers will be investigated.

Expected Results:

Results from this research will provide essential information regarding tracer occurrence and fate that is needed to develop a quantitative method for apportioning sources of contaminants in drinking water supplies. By quantitatively addressing fate and transport of the molecular tracers in streams and rivers, this work will provide the framework for future modeling efforts. Beneficiaries of this work include the drinking water industry and all users of water resources by targeting remedial efforts where they will achieve the greatest improvement.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 3 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

risk assessment, water quality,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Waste, Water, Hydrology, Contaminated Sediments, Remediation, Environmental Chemistry, Wet Weather Flows, Drinking Water, Engineering, Chemistry, & Physics, monitoring, fate and transport, wastewater treatment, transport containment, contaminant transport, quantitative method, nonpoint source runoff, contaminated sediment, surface water, treatment, point source effluents, agriculture, water quality, non-point sources, threshold values, drinking water contaminants, other - risk management, molecular tracer

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001
  • 2002
  • Final Report