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New Jersey Water Science Center
Great Falls of the Passaic River at Paterson, N.J.
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Project Title: NJ 190 Pharmaceuticals
The objectives of this study are to
Statement of Problem
Results of recent investigations indicate that certain pharmaceutical compounds and their metabolites are frequently detected in the aquatic environment and that concentrations are greatest in areas of dense population and in streams whose flow is composed partly of effluent from wastewater-treatment facilities. Because New Jersey is the most densely populated State, is home to a large number of pharmaceutical manufacturers, and is the site of a large number of wastewater-treatment facilities that are permitted to discharge effluent into neighboring waters, it is likely that pharmaceutical compounds are present in the State's water supplies. Indeed, they were detected during preliminary sampling for pharmaceutical compounds in New Jersey streams conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 1999. Because these compounds have not been routinely analyzed for, however, their occurrence, distribution, and concentration in the State's water supplies are poorly understood.
Strategy and Approach
USGS personnel together with NJDEP staff scientists will select surface- and groundwater sites for sampling. To determine the occurrence and distribution of pharmaceutical compounds in the State's surface-water supplies, a synoptic survey of about 30 sites will be conducted. Sampling sites for the occurrence and distribution survey will be selected to include streams that (1) are susceptible to point- and nonpoint-source contamination from pharmaceutical compounds and (2) are used, or are tributaries to streams that are used, for public supply. To determine whether concentrations of pharmaceutical compounds vary seasonally, three additional samples will be collected at a subset of about 10 sites from the occurrence and distribution survey, for a total of one sample for each season. In addition, one of the 10 sites at which the number and concentration of pharmaceutical compounds is highest will be sampled an additional six times during higher flow conditions in order to evaluate the effect of flow conditions on the concentration of pharmaceutical compounds. To distinguish the types and concentrations of pharmaceutical compounds introduced to the aquatic environment from point- and nonpoint-sources, and to determine the mobility and fate of these compounds in a watershed, a synoptic survey of 10 to 20 samples will be conducted in a selected drainage basin with multiple sources (point and nonpoint) of these compounds. The targeted watershed and number of samples will be determined based on results of the previous surveys and discussions between USGS and NJDEP personnel. Samples will be collected to characterize the types and concentrations of pharmaceutical compounds from each source and at selected downstream locations, including the outflow of the drainage basin. Groundwater-sampling sites will be selected from those public-supply wells screened in surficial or unconfined parts of aquifer systems to provide a broad-scale assessment of the occurrence, distribution, and concentration of pharmaceutical compounds in water from aquifer systems in the State that have a direct hydraulic connection to land surface. Public-supply wells are most appropriate for determining the distribution and concentration of pharmaceutical compounds in the State's groundwater resources because they integrate water and, therefore, water-quality conditions across a broad section of a given aquifer system and because they are an indicator of the quality of water used for public supply. Public-supply wells known or suspected to be affected by surface-water systems that receive effluent from wastewater-treatment facilities will be given priority. In addition, to the extent possible, sites will be selected whose contributing areas represent a range of land-uses and natural settings. Because the chemical quality of groundwater tends to vary spatially rather than temporally, each site will be sampled only once to maximize the number of sites sampled. The USGS has developed methods to quantitatively determine the concentration of various pharmaceutical compounds in samples of environmental water. The most frequently prescribed and most frequently purchased over-the-counter medications including lipid-regulating drugs, analgesics, antibiotics, antiseptics, antidepressants, antiasthmatics, and cardiovascular drugs, are the focus of these methods. In addition, analytical methods for the analysis of certain endocring-disrupting chemicals and sex and steroidal hormones are also available. These analytical methods use high-performance liquid chromatography/electrospray-ionization mass spectrometry (HPLC/ESI-MS) and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry instrumentation with selected-ion monitoring (SIM) allowing for fully quantitative determination of these pharmaceuticals at part-per-billion (ppb) and sub-ppb concentrations.
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