Occurrence, concentrations, and risks of pharmaceutical compounds in private wells in central Pennsylvania

Faith A. Kibuye, Heather Elise Gall, Kyle R. Elkin, Bryan Swistock, Tamie L. Veith, John Earl Watson, Herschel Adams Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Over-the-counter and prescription medications are routinely present at detectable levels in surface and groundwater bodies. The presence of these emerging contaminants has raised both environmental and public health concerns, particularly when the water is used for drinking either directly or with additional treatment. However, the frequency of occurrence, range of concentrations, and potential human health risks are not well understood, especially for groundwater supplies. Private wells are often not tested for contaminants regulated by drinking water standards and are even less frequently tested for emerging contaminants. By partnering with the Pennsylvania Master Well OwnerNetwork,watersampleswerecollectedfrom26households with private wells in the West Branch of the Susquehanna River basin in central Pennsylvania in winter 2017. All samples were analyzed for six pharmaceuticals (acetaminophen, ampicillin, naproxen, ofloxacin, sulfamethoxazole, and trimethoprim) and one over-the-counter stimulant (caffeine). At least one compound was detected at each site. Ofloxacin and naproxen were the most and least frequently detected compounds, respectively. Concentrations from the groundwater wells were higher than those of nearby surface water samples. However, risk calculations revealed that none of the concentrations measured in groundwater samples posed significant human health risk. A simple, physicochemical-based modeling approach was used to predict pharmaceutical transport from septic absorption field to groundwater and further elucidate variations in detection frequencies. Findings indicate that although septic tanks may act as contaminant sources for groundwater wells, the human health impacts from trace-level pharmaceuticals that may be present are likely minimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1057-1066
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Volume48
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Fingerprint

Drug products
Groundwater
drug
well
groundwater
Impurities
pollutant
Health risks
health risk
Septic tanks
Caffeine
health impact
Public health
drinking
Surface waters
Potable water
Catchments
public health
river basin
Rivers

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Cite this

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title = "Occurrence, concentrations, and risks of pharmaceutical compounds in private wells in central Pennsylvania",
abstract = "Over-the-counter and prescription medications are routinely present at detectable levels in surface and groundwater bodies. The presence of these emerging contaminants has raised both environmental and public health concerns, particularly when the water is used for drinking either directly or with additional treatment. However, the frequency of occurrence, range of concentrations, and potential human health risks are not well understood, especially for groundwater supplies. Private wells are often not tested for contaminants regulated by drinking water standards and are even less frequently tested for emerging contaminants. By partnering with the Pennsylvania Master Well OwnerNetwork,watersampleswerecollectedfrom26households with private wells in the West Branch of the Susquehanna River basin in central Pennsylvania in winter 2017. All samples were analyzed for six pharmaceuticals (acetaminophen, ampicillin, naproxen, ofloxacin, sulfamethoxazole, and trimethoprim) and one over-the-counter stimulant (caffeine). At least one compound was detected at each site. Ofloxacin and naproxen were the most and least frequently detected compounds, respectively. Concentrations from the groundwater wells were higher than those of nearby surface water samples. However, risk calculations revealed that none of the concentrations measured in groundwater samples posed significant human health risk. A simple, physicochemical-based modeling approach was used to predict pharmaceutical transport from septic absorption field to groundwater and further elucidate variations in detection frequencies. Findings indicate that although septic tanks may act as contaminant sources for groundwater wells, the human health impacts from trace-level pharmaceuticals that may be present are likely minimal.",
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Occurrence, concentrations, and risks of pharmaceutical compounds in private wells in central Pennsylvania. / Kibuye, Faith A.; Gall, Heather Elise; Elkin, Kyle R.; Swistock, Bryan; Veith, Tamie L.; Watson, John Earl; Elliott, Herschel Adams.

In: Journal of Environmental Quality, Vol. 48, No. 4, 01.01.2019, p. 1057-1066.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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