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NJDEP-USGS New Jersey Toxic Substances Study


Occurrence, Distribution, And Concentration of Pharmaceuticals And Other Organic Wastewater-Related Compounds In New Jersey’s Surface-Water Supplies
Paul E. Stackelberg, U.S. Geological Survey and R. Lee Lippincott, NJDEP

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) developed analytical methods for the determination of more than 100 contaminants typically found in domestic, industrial, and agricultural wastewaters. Examples of these unregulated contaminants include pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, hormones, personal care products, and various industrial and commercial products. These newly developed analytical methods have been used by the USGS in cooperation with the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate the occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern in New Jersey’s streams and drinking-water supplies. Results from this study indicate that organic contaminants that represent a broad suite of uses and origins can enter and persist in environmental waters and subsequently occur in finished drinking-water supplies. This study provides information that will be useful for designing future monitoring efforts and for setting research and regulatory priorities.

Synoptic Field Study: Synoptic field studies are designed to provide basic scientific information related to the occurrence and potential transport of contaminants in the environment. These studies provide increased understanding the identification, occurrence and fate. The synoptic field study described here utilized newly developed laboratory methods at USGS to provide baseline information on the environmental occurrence of a wide range of organic wastewater contaminants in surface water used or having the potential to be used as sources of drinking water. Preliminary results from other field studies have shown that many organic wastewater contaminants may persist in environmental surface waters. It is therefore important to determine if the same compounds can be found in surface water currently being used or having the potential to be used as sources of drinking water.

Thirty stream sampling locations were selected. Most were located downstream or near potential sources of human wastewaters. The strategic field sampling plan for this project involved a vulnerability assessment that utilized the basin hydrodynamics, land use coverage, and percent wastewater contribution to stream flow as elements. A range of 0 to 51 municipal wastewater treatment (facilities are located upstream of sites selected for this survey and the estimated amount of stream flow contributed by these wastewater treatment facilities ranges from 0 to 70 percent. Each of these 30 sites was sampled once during June and July of 2001 and each sample was analyzed for organic wastewater-related compounds.

All samples were collected by USGS and NJDEP personnel in the summer of 2001 using consistent protocols and procedures designed to obtain a sample representative of the targeted raw drinking-water source. Data currently are being analyzed.

Over 90 percent of the samples contained detectable concentrations of one or more of the target compounds. The number of compounds detected per sample ranged from 0 to 32, with a median of 11. The total concentration of these compounds per sample ranged from non-detectable to 81 ug/L, with a median of 1.7 ug/L. Compounds detected in more than 40 percent of all samples include;

• caffeine,
• the pharmaceuticals carbamazepine and cotinine,
• the flame retardants and plasticizers tri(dichloroisopropyl) phosphate and tri(2-chloroethyl) phosphate,
• the fragrance compound acetyl-hexamethyl-tetrahydro-napthalene (AHTN),
• the plant and animal steroids cholesterol and 3-b-coprostanol, and
• the pesticides prometon, diazinon, and metolachlor.

The total number and concentration of target compounds detected per sample correlated significantly with the percentage of streamflow contributed by sewage treatment plants, indicating, as expected, that the likely primary source for many of these compounds is effluent from the wastewater treatment process.

The strategic field sampling plan for this project involved a vulnerability assessment that utilized the basin hydrodynamics, land use characteristics, and percent wastewater contribution to stream flow as elements. This information was used to determine if there was an indication of primary source and to assess the fate and transport of the detected chemicals in the environment. The total number and concentration of target compounds detected per sample seems to correlate somewhat with the percentage of streamflow contributed by sewage treatment plants, indicating that the likely primary source for many of these compounds is effluent from the wastewater treatment process. Data analysis is still underway.

Office of Science
Dr. Gary A. Buchanan, Manager

Mailing Address:
Mail code 428-01, P.O. Box 420
P.O. Box 420
Trenton, NJ 0862
Office Location:
428 East State St., 1st floor
Trenton, NJ 08625
Phone: (609) 984-6070
Fax: (609) 292-7340


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Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: November 1, 2010