Fate of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products in Irrigated Wastewater Effluent

bails of switchgrass dying in field

Field near Lexington, Illinois, were soil and well water samples where taken to test for PPCPs.

It has been well-documented that municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) with surface discharge fail to remove many PPCPs. However, little research has been conducted to determine the capability of lagoon treatment systems to remove PPCPs or of organic-matter-rich clay loam soils to filter PPCPs and reduce surface water pollution.

The objective of this study was to determine the fate and transport of selected pharmaceuticals in lagoon-treated wastewater effluent applied as cropland irrigation in Illinois. Samples were tested for seven priority PPCPs, and six of these were found in lagoon-treated wastewater. No preexisting soil or groundwater contamination was found in the fields prior to irrigation. Relatively high organic carbon and clay content of the fields’ soils may have increased the affinity for PPCPs with high hydrophobic properties, but additional studies are needed to determine the factors that may affect soil and PPCPs interactions.

This project was funded by the Illinois Hazardous Waste Research Fund (HWR12223) and the results were published in Technical Report TR-052.