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STAR Grant R829014 - Impact of Residual Pharmaceutical Agents and their Metabolites in Wastewater Effluents on Downstream Drinking Water Treatment Facilities (2001 - 2004)

Project Purpose:
The objective of this research project is to incorporate a multipronged approach to evaluate the fate and transport of pharmaceutically derived chemicals in the aquatic environment. Because of their high-end use, antibiotics were singled out for a major investigation that includes isolating them from surface waters impacted by wastewater treatment plant effluent and determining whether antimicrobial resistance traits in bacteria found in those waters are correlated to environmental levels of the compounds. In addition, because during the previous years of this research project ng/L levels of a wide range of major-use antibiotics were found in the surface waters that feed drinking water treatment plants, sensitive and reliable solid phase extraction followed by analysis with liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometric methods (SPE-LC-MS/MS) were developed for their analysis throughout the drinking water treatment process. An occurrence study then was begun in source and finished drinking waters. Additional objectives for this component of the research project include assessment of their removal and transformation during chlorination through identification of transformation products. To evaluate what happens to a wide range of pharmaceutical chemicals in the environment, methods are being developed to extract them from river sediments and track their fate during natural photolysis. In addition, treatment processes also are being evaluated to determine how best to remove the chemicals if they infiltrate groundwater or survive drinking water treatment.

Project Description(s):
This research will assess the presence and subsequent impact of major use pharmaceutically active compound (PhAC) residues and their metabolites in the environment on drinking water quality. In particular, the project will evaluate the occurrence, fate, and transport of these chemicals from wastewater treatment plant discharges upstream of drinking water treatment plants. The raw water feed to the potentially susceptible drinking water-treatment facilities will then be monitored through the various treatment steps of the plant including the sediments and finished water. The hypotheses that are to be tested are that: (i) residual PhACs in municipal wastewater treatment plant discharges persist in the receiving streams and can be transported to downstream water treatment plant intakes; (ii) conventional drinking water treatment processes do not effectively remove all of these residues; (iii) PhAC residues may be present in the particulate phase removed during the drinking water treatment process and in finished drinking water; and (iv) the widespread use of antibiotics has led to the production of antibiotic resistant bacteria capable of penetrating treatment processes and persisting in and even multiplying in treated drinking water.

Project Outcomes:
Final report: Impact of Residual Pharmaceutical Agents and their Metabolites in Wastewater Effluents on Downstream Drinking Water Treatment Facilities

Angela Page at page.angelad@epa.gov

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