Do Pharmaceuticals, Pathogens, and Other Organic Waste Water Compounds Persist When Waste Water Is Used for Recharge?

Authors

  • Gail E. Cordy,

    1. Gail E. Cordy (USGS, 520 N. Park Ave., Ste. 221, Tucson, AZ 85719; [520] 670–6671, ext. 223; gcordy@usgs.gov) is a supervisory hydrologist and has worked for the USGS since 1984. Her current research interests include determining the potential for ground water contamination by recharge and irrigation with effluent in arid and semiarid climates.
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  • Norma L. Duran,

    1. Norma Duran (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 4050 Rio Bravo, Ste. 100, El Paso, TX 79902; [915] 533–7273, ext. 224; duran.norma@epa.gov) works for the U.S. EPA Border Office, where she coordinates environmental projects along the U.S./Mexico border. Her research interests include the fate and transport of pathogens in the subsurface and in water distribution systems with an emphasis on microbiological safety of water-reuse practices.
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  • Herman Bouwer,

    1. Herman Bouwer (U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 4331 E. Broadway Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85040; [602] 437–1702, ext. 244; hbouwer@uswl.ars.ag.gov) was chief engineer (retired) at the USWCL for more than 42 years, almost all of which was devoted to the study of artificial recharge of ground water and soil-aquifer treatment, especially with sewage effluent. His work has been published in numerous articles in peer- reviewed journals and book chapters.
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  • Robert C. Rice,

    1. Robert C. Rice (GeoSystems Analysis Inc., 2015 N. Forbes Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85745; [520] 628–9330; riceqhb@netscape.net) spent 33 years at the U.S. Water Conservation Laboratory conducting research on vadose zone transport including hydraulic property evaluation and ground water recharge and waste water renovation by soil-aquifer treatment. He has also conducted research on spatial variability of solute transport and preferential flow phenomenon in the vadose zone as part of best management practice studies related to irrigation and fertilizer applications.
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  • Edward T. Furlong,

    1. Edward T. Furlong (USGS, National Water Quality Laboratory, Denver Federal Center, P.O. Box 25046, MS 407, Lakewood, CO 80225–0046; [303] 236–3945; efurlong@usgs.gov) is a research chemist who has worked for the last 16 years developing and applying ultratrace analytical techniques to determine the presence, distribution, and environmental chemistry of organic contaminants in aquatic environments. His current research interests encompass the analysis and environmental chemistry of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and other organic waste water contaminants.
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  • Steven D. Zaugg,

    1. Steven D. Zaugg (USGS, National Water Quality Laboratory, Denver Federal Center, P.O. Box 25046, MS 407, Lakewood, CO 80225–0046; [303] 236–3269; sdzaugg@usgs.gov) has worked as an analytical chemist for the USGS since 1987. His current research interests include developing solid-phase extraction techniques and accelerated solvent-extraction techniques for water and sediment analysis of pesticides and emerging contaminants in the environment by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.
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  • Michael T. Meyer,

    1. Michael T. Meyer (USGS, 4821 Quail Crest Place, Lawrence, KS 66049; [785] 832–3544; mmeyer@usgs.gov) is director of the USGS Kansas District Organic Geochemistry Research Group. The focus of his research is development of analytical methods to study the nature of organic contaminants in surface water and ground water. His primary interest is the study of emerging contaminants such as pesticide degradates and pharmaceutical compounds.
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  • Larry B. Barber,

    1. Larry B. Barber (USGS, 3215 Marine St., Ste. E-127, Boulder, CO 80303; [303] 541–3039; lbbarber@usgs.gov) is a research geochemist with 20 years of experience at the USGS. His current research interests include the occurrence and fate of waste water derived contaminants in surface and ground water systems.
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  • Dana W. Kolpin

    1. Dana W. Kolpin (USGS, Federal Bldg, Room 269, 400 South Clinton St., Iowa City, IA 52240; [319] 358–3614; dwkolpin@usgs.gov) is a research hydrologist with the USGS. His research includes water quality investigations of ground and surface water at local, regional, and national scales.
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Abstract

A proof-of-concept experiment was devised to determine if pharmaceuticals and other organic waste water compounds (OWCs), as well as pathogens, found in treated effluent could be transported through a 2.4 m soil column and, thus, potentially reach ground water under recharge conditions similar to those in arid or semiarid climates. Treated effluent was applied at the top of the 2.4 m long, 32.5 cm diameter soil column over 23 days. Samples of the column inflow were collected from the effluent storage tank at the beginning (Tbegin) and end (Tend) of the experiment, and a sample of the soil column drainage at the base of the column (Bend) was collected at the end of the experiment. Samples were analyzed for 131 OWCs including veterinary and human antibiotics, other prescription and nonprescription drugs, widely used household and industrial chemicals, and steroids and reproductive hormones, as well as the pathogens Salmonella and Legionella. Analytical results for the two effluent samples taken at the beginning (Tbegin) and end (Tend) of the experiment indicate that the number of OWCs detected in the column inflow decreased by 25% (eight compounds) and the total concentration of OWCs decreased by 46% while the effluent was in the storage tank during the 23-day experiment. After percolating through the soil column, an additional 18 compounds detected in Tend (67% of OWCs) were no longer detected in the effluent (Bend) and the total concentration of OWCs decreased by more than 70%. These compounds may have been subject to transformation (biotic and abiotic), adsorption, and (or) volatilization in the storage tank and during travel through the soil column. Eight compounds—carbamazapine; sulfamethoxazole; benzophenone; 5-methyl-1H-benzotriazole; N, N-diethyltoluamide; tributylphosphate; tri(2-chloroethyl) phosphate; and cholesterol—were detected in all three samples indicating they have the potential to reach ground water under recharge conditions similar to those in arid and semiarid climates. Results from real-time polymerase chain reactions demonstrated the presence of Legionella in all three samples. Salmonella was detected only in Tbegin, suggesting that the bacteria died off in the effluent storage tank over the period of the experiment. This proof-of-concept experiment demonstrates that, under recharge conditions similar to those in arid or semiarid climates, some pharmaceuticals, pathogens, and other OWCs can persist in treated effluent after soil-aquifer treatment.

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