Infrastructure / On the water frontEmerging water contaminants a growing worry

Published 22 April 2008

As worries about pharmaceutical contamination of U.S. drinking water increase, a non-profit organization increases its efforts to build a coalition of organizations to research the issue

We wrote yesterday about the City of Chicago launching a thorough scientific examination to see the level of pharmaceutical contamination of Lake Michigan. Indeed, trace organics are important challenges facing the wastewater industry, whether they are endocrine disruptors, microconstituents, pharmaceuticals, or emerging contaminants. In response, several major research organizations have undertaken new research and are compiling information for wastewater treatment managers and others, to ensure that they are making the best and most appropriate treatment decisions to guarantee high quality water for reuse and healthy aquatic ecosystems in receiving waters. The research effort underway is broad and wide-ranging. Last May, the Water Environment Research Foundation pulled together more than two dozen government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and research centers which agreed to share their research findings and plans and to look for future research collaborations on pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and related compounds. The research products, projects, and plans are compiled in a WERF summary document, “Mapping a Collaborative Research Roadmap.”

WERF alone has identified more than $2 million in funding for research over the next five years and intends to leverage this amount several-fold through collaborations and partnerships. WERF has been managing research on these issues for several years. Its trace organic research to date has focused on analytical and monitoring techniques in several environmental matrices, occurrence, fate, transport, and treatment effectiveness. Readers of the Daily Wire may find the following reports usefu; they may be ordered on WERF Web site:

  • Fate of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products through Municipal Wastewater Treatment Processes (stock no. 03CTS22UR), 2007
  • Towards an Innovative DNA Array Technology for Detection of Pharmaceuticals in Reclaimed Water (stock no. 01HHE21T), 2007
  • Online Methods for Evaluating the Safety of Reclaimed Water (stock no. 01HHE4A), 2007
  • Removal of Endocrine Disrupting Compounds in Water Reclamation Processes (stock no. 01HHE20T), 2006
  • Technical Brief: Endocrine Disrupting Compounds and Implications for Wastewater Treatment (stock no. 04WEM6), 2005

In June this year, WERF will publish an update to its 2005 Technical Brief. The update will provide the latest scientific developments and technological advancements for treated wastewater, reclaimed water, and receiving streams. It will also identify significant knowledge gaps. Research that should have results in the next two years includes an evaluation of QSPR techniques in treatment processes; fate of estrogenic compounds during sludge stabilization and dewatering; tools for analyzing estrogenicity; performance dynamics of trace organics in onsite treatment units and systems; and attenuation of PPCPs and EDCs through golf courses using reused water. This ongoing research includes collaborations with the Global Water Research Coalition, the WateReuse Foundation and other partners.