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Environment

Drugs Slip Through Water Treatment

by Jessica Morrison
September 29, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 39

Pharmaceutical compounds and chemicals in personal care products are turning up in shallow groundwater, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study. The compounds are being found in treated municipal wastewater that is released to streams, says the report, published in Environmental Pollution (2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2014.06.028). The research is part of a long-term initiative to track contaminants of emerging concern and to develop new wastewater management techniques. The study found evidence of pharmaceuticals in groundwater as far away as 20 meters from the Des Moines stream where a plant discharged treated water. The researchers found the diabetes drug metformin and the antihistamine fexofenadine in groundwater that was analyzed for more than 100 substances. Senior author Dana W. Kolpin, a USGS hydrologist, says the water samples were taken before a nearby wastewater treatment plant closed in November 2013. Researchers hope to compare data collected before the plant’s closure with data collected after to provide a picture of the effects of wastewater treatment on stream ecology, Kolpin says.

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