PPCPs in Karst Groundwater in Southwestern Illinois

water in stream runs into cave with tree, rocks, and shrubs surrounding

In karst environments, manure-contaminated water can runoff from animal feed lots into caves and contaminate the groundwater.

In May 2014, Wei Zheng, along with collaborators Walt Kelly (Illinois State Water Survey), Steve Taylor (Illinois Natural History Survey), and Sam Panno (Illinois State Geological Survey), received a one-year grant for a project titled “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) in Karst Groundwater in Southwestern Illinois,” allowed them to continue their work on groundwater contamination in karst regions of the state and expand to look at veterinary hormones.

Groundwater in karst regions frequently contains contaminants and, in previous studies by the researchers on this project, high levels of fecal coliform bacteria have been detected in karst regions of Illinois. Effluent from septic systems is the likely source of this bacterial pollution and may also be contributing to PPCPs being released into the karst groundwater; however, PPCP and hormone contamination has not been previously examined in southwestern Illinois.

Therefore, this project is systematically sampling springs and caves for PPCPs and other water quality parameters in the Sinkhole Plain of southwestern Illinois, looking at seasonal variations and sewage discharge effects and relationships among various chemical and bacterial parameters. On a broader level, the scientists involved are interested in expanding the Prairie Research Institute’s research capabilities with respect to analysis of PPCPs in water samples and understanding the environmental fate of PPCPs and their effects on aquatic biota.

Funding was provided by the Prairie Research Institute’s Matching Research Awards Program.

scientists wearing waterproof gear and hard hats take water samples and field measurements in a cave