Influence of hydrologic and anthropogenic drivers on emerging organic contaminants in drinking water sources in the Susquehanna River Basin

Faith A. Kibuye, Heather E. Gall, Tamie L. Veith, Kyle R. Elkin, Herschel A. Elliott, Jeremy P. Harper, John E. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Occurrence of emerging organic contaminants (EOCs) in surface water bodies can cause adverse effects on non-target organisms. When surface waters are used as drinking water sources, temporal variability in EOC concentrations can potentially impact drinking water quality and human health. To better understand spatiotemporal variability of EOCs in drinking water sources in Central Pennsylvania, EOCs were evaluated in six drinking water sources during a two-year study period (April 2016–June 2018) in the Susquehanna River Basin (SRB). The study was conducted in two phases: Phase I was a spatially distributed sampling approach within the SRB focusing on seven human pharmaceuticals and Phase II was a temporally intensive sampling regime at a single site focusing on a broader range of EOCs. Concentration-discharge relationships were utilized to classify EOC transport dynamics and understand the extent to which hydrologic and anthropogenic factors, such as surface runoff and wastewater effluent, may contribute to EOC occurrence. Overall, EOCs were present at higher concentrations in colder seasons than warmer seasons. Thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid insecticide, and caffeine exhibited accretion dynamics during high-flow periods, suggesting higher transport during surface runoff events. Human pharmaceuticals known to persist in wastewater effluent were inversely correlated with discharge, indicating dilution characteristics consistent with diminished wastewater signals during high-flow periods. Acetaminophen exhibited near-chemostatic transport dynamics, indicating nonpoint source inputs during high-flow periods. Risk calculations revealed that although EOCs posed medium-to-high risk to aquatic organisms, human health risk through fish consumption was low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125583
StatePublished - Apr 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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