The Occurrence of Illicit and Therapeutic Pharmaceuticals in Wastewater Effluent and Surface Waters in Nebraska

Department of Civil Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 203B Peter Kiewit Institute, Omaha, NE 68182-0178, USA.
Environmental Pollution (Impact Factor: 4.14). 03/2009; 157(3):786-91. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2008.11.025
Source: PubMed


The occurrence and estimated concentration of twenty illicit and therapeutic pharmaceuticals and metabolites in surface waters influenced by wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) discharge and in wastewater effluents in Nebraska were determined using Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Samplers (POCIS). Samplers were installed in rivers upstream and downstream of treated WWTP discharge at four sites and in a discharge canal at a fifth location. Based on differences in estimated concentrations determined from pharmaceuticals recovered from POCIS, WWTP effluent was found to be a significant source of pharmaceutical loading to the receiving waters. Effluents from WWTPs with trickling filters or trickling filters in parallel with activated sludge resulted in the highest observed in-stream pharmaceutical concentrations. Azithromycin, caffeine, 1,7-dimethylzanthine, carbamazepine, cotinine, DEET, diphenhydramine, and sulfamethazine were detected at all locations. Methamphetamine, an illicit pharmaceutical, was detected at all but one of the sampling locations, representing only the second report of methamphetamine detected in WWTP effluent and in streams impacted by WWTP effluent.

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    • "Paradoxically, when these compounds enter our environment after use and due to their specific mechanisms of biological activity, they harm the affected ecosystems. In recent years pharmaceutical residues have been found not only in surface water bodies [1] [2] and soils [3], but even in the drinking water supplies of many countries [4]. This highlights their possible impact on human health and the vicious circle connected to their unreflected use. "
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    • "More frequently, investigators have measured the concentrations of LIDs in surface waters receiving wastewater effluent and in general demonstrate that trace concentrations of amphetamine, methamphetamine, morphine, MDMA (ecstasy), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cocaine and cocaine metabolites in occur directly in wastewater effluent, or in rivers receiving effluent [12] [13] [21] [22] [24] [25]. For example, Bartelt-Hunt et al. [13] detected a range of illicit and other pharmaceutical compounds using passive samplers placed upstream and downstream of WWTP effluent discharges at several Midwestern sites; methamphetamine concentrations downstream of WWTP effluent ranged from ∼2 to 350 ng/L with few detections upstream and no detections of amphetamine. A similar study was conducted in Switzerland and demonstrated that cocaine and benzoylecgonine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA, morphine, codeine, heroin metabolites 6-acetylmorphine and 6-acetylcodeine, and THC metabolites were present in wastewater treatment plant effluent, as well as several lakes and streams receiving effluent [26]. "
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