Office of Research and Development Publications

Spatial Patterns of Pharmaceuticals and Wastewater Tracers in the Hudson River Estuary

Citation:

Cantwell, M., D. Katz, J. Sullivan, D. Shapley, J. Lipscomb, J. Epstein, A. Juhl, C. Knudson, AND G. O'Mullan. Spatial Patterns of Pharmaceuticals and Wastewater Tracers in the Hudson River Estuary. WATER RESEARCH. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 137:335-343, (2018). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2017.12.044

Impact/Purpose:

Effluents from wastewater treatment plants (WWTP), which contain pharmaceutical residues as a result of human use, are ultimately discharged to other waterbodies, such as estuaries. However, little is known about the distribution and behavior of pharmaceutical compounds in large estuarine systems. This study measured the presence and levels of 16 highly prescribed pharmaceuticals along the Hudson River Estuary and New York Harbor. Caffeine and sucralose, an artificial sweetener, were also measured to test their potential for identifying sources of wastewater to the estuary. Sampling was conducted during dry weather conditions in May and July 2016. More than half of the 16 pharmaceuticals were found to be present at the 72 sites within the study area during both sampling periods. Continuous discharge from WWTPs were the primary sources of pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical concentrations were influenced by the location and magnitude of effluent discharge, inputs from tributaries, river flow, and tidal processes affecting dilution. The use of caffeine/sucralose ratios as an indicator of untreated sanitary wastewater showed promise in this study. While caffeine is effectively removed by WWTPs, sucralose is not; therefore, a high proportion of caffeine to sucralose may be indicative of untreated wastewater. This warrants further examination under a range of conditions, particularly in urban areas highly impacted by unregulated wastewater discharges. The findings provide important information on the risk, distribution, and behavior of pharmaceutical residues in highly populated waterbodies and contribute to developing an approach to tracking unregulated wastewater.

Description:

The widespread use of pharmaceuticals by human populations results in their sustained discharge to surface waters via wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). In this study, 16 highly prescribed pharmaceuticals were quantified along a 250 km transect of the Hudson River Estuary and New York Harbor to describe their sources and spatial patterns. Sampling was conducted over two dry weather periods in May and July 2016, at 72 sites which included mid-channel and nearshore sites, as well as locations influenced by tributaries and WWTP outfalls. The detection frequency of the study pharmaceuticals was almost identical between the May and July sampling periods at 55% and 52%, respectively. Six pharmaceuticals were measurable at 92% or more of the sites during both sampling periods, illustrating their ubiquitous presence throughout the study area. Individual pharmaceutical concentrations were highly variable spatially, ranging from non-detect to 3810 ng/L during the study. Major factors controlling concentrations were proximity and magnitude of WWTP discharges, inputs from tributaries and tidal mixing. Two compounds, sucralose and caffeine, were evaluated as tracers to identify wastewater sources and assess pharmaceutical behavior. Sucralose was useful in identifying wastewater inputs to the river and concentrations showed excellent correlations with numerous pharmaceuticals in the study. Caffeine-sucralose ratios showed potential in identifying discharges of untreated wastewater occurring during a combined sewage overflow event. Many of the study pharmaceuticals were present throughout the Hudson River Estuary as a consequence of sustained wastewater discharge. Whereas some concentrations were above published effects levels, a more complete risk assessment is needed to understand the potential for ecological impacts due to pharmaceuticals in the Hudson River Estuary.

URLs/Downloads:

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2017.12.044   Exit

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Product Published Date: 06/15/2018
Record Last Revised: 03/15/2019
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 344486

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY

ATLANTIC ECOLOGY DIVISION

POPULATION ECOLOGY BRANCH