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Loadings of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)
from Small Rural Streams into an Urban Drinking Water Source

Thomas B. Huff, Jun Liu and Gregory D. Foster


Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been investigated for their potential to disrupt aquatic ecosystems. Current research focuses on their potential to impact human health through incomplete removal in some drinking water treatment systems that rely on surface water sources that are also receiving sewage effluent and runoff from agricultural practices. Effective mitigation will require knowledge of existing concentrations and loadings from tributaries into drinking water supplies.

Water and suspended sediment samples were obtained on a monthly basis during storm and base flow conditions from Cedar Run and its smaller tributaries. Cedar Run is a creek that drains 242 sq km of rural Fauquier County in Virginia’s Piedmont region. The county land use consists of cattle and corn agricultural operations as well as small towns with septic tank systems. Discharge from Cedar Run has been measured at USGS gauging station number 01656000—the primary sampling location—at greater than 62 cubic meters per second. This discharge enters the Occoquon River which is the source of drinking water for Fairfax County, Virginia, an urban-suburban county with a residential population of over 1 million.

Samples were analyzed for a suite of 50 common PPCPs and EDCs including antibiotics, estrogenic steroids and household chemicals. Extractions of dissolved phase samples were performed using Oasis solid-phase extraction cartridges (Waters Corp., Milford, MA). Extractions of filtered suspended sediments were performed using a MARS (microwave accelerated reaction system; CEM Corporation, Matthews, NC). Extracts were analyzed by a combination of GC-MS and LC-MS protocols.

Agricultural EDCs such as atrazine and its metabolites and PPCPs such as trimethoprim, sulfamethoxazole and caffeine were frequently detected in concentrations ranging from ng to ug per liter. Instantaneous and seasonally estimated loadings of detected analytes are presented here.


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