Characterizing pharmaceutical, personal care product, and hormone contamination in a karst aquifer of southwestern Illinois, USA, using water quality and stream flow parameters

Dodgen, L.K.,, Science of the Total Environment, 578:281-289, February 2017

Karst aquifers are drinking water sources for 25% of the global population. However, the unique geology of karst areas facilitates rapid transfer of surficial chemicals to groundwater, potentially contaminating drinking water. Contamination of karst aquifers by nitrate, chloride, and bacteria have been previously observed, but little knowledge is available on the presence of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), such as pharmaceuticals. Over a 17-month period, 58 water samples were collected from 13 sites in the Salem Plateau, a karst region in southwestern Illinois, United States. Water was analyzed for 12 pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs), 7 natural and synthetic hormones, and 49 typical water quality parameters (e.g., nutrients and bacteria). Hormones were detected in only 23% of samples, with concentrations of 2.2–9.1 ng/L. In contrast, PPCPs were quantified in 89% of groundwater samples. The two most commonly detected PPCPs were the antimicrobial triclocarban, in 81% of samples, and the cardiovascular drug gemfibrozil, in 57%. Analytical results were combined with data of local stream flow, weather, and land use to 1) characterize the extent of aquifer contamination by CECs, 2) cluster sites with similar PPCP contamination profiles, and 3) develop models to describe PPCP contamination. Median detection in karst groundwater was 3 PPCPs at a summed concentration of 4.6 ng/L. Sites clustered into 3 subsets with unique contamination models. PPCP contamination in Cluster I sites was related to stream height, manganese, boron, and heterotrophic bacteria. Cluster II sites were characterized by groundwater temperature, specific conductivity, sodium, and calcium. Cluster III sites were characterized by dissolved oxygen and barium. Across all sites, no single or small set of water quality factors was significantly predictive of PPCP contamination, although gemfibrozil concentrations were strongly related to the sum of PPCPs in karst groundwater.

Source: Water Feed

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