Stillaguamish Emerging Contaminants

Science Center Objects

Emerging contaminants are a group of chemical compounds that generally include pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, surfactants, industrial and household chemicals, and food additives. Their presence in the environment is typically associated with discharges from wastewater treatment-plants (WWTP), on-site septic systems, and some animal production operations. They are of particular interest because a number of these compounds have potential to disrupt the endocrine systems of aquatic species and humans. Currently, there are limited data for the occurrence of emerging contaminants in Washington State streams.

The Issue: Emerging contaminants are a group of chemical compounds that generally include pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, surfactants, industrial and household chemicals, and food additives. Their presence in the environment is typically associated with discharges from wastewater treatment-plants (WWTP), on-site septic systems, and some animal production operations. They are of particular interest because a number of these compounds have potential to disrupt the endocrine systems of aquatic species and humans. Currently, there are limited data for the occurrence of emerging contaminants in Washington State streams.

There is concern of possible chronic effects on fish and wildlife from low-level environmental exposure to emerging contaminants and with mixtures of these compounds that may have synergistic toxic effects. There is now substantial evidence that some of these compounds impact the endocrine systems of fish and wildlife, influencing hormonal and reproductive functions. One of the most likely sources of emerging contaminants in the basin is the WWTPs, although other potential sources are from septic systems, unregulated industrial discharges, fish hatcheries, farms, and dairies.

How USGS will help: USGS will conduct a preliminary, small-scale sampling effort that will meet the following objectives:

  1. Identify the type and magnitude of emerging contaminants present in a sample of the springtime wastewater effluent from the City of Arlington WWTP discharging to surface waters of the Stillaguamish watershed; and
  2. Provide a baseline sample for future comparison to effluent from the City of Arlington’s expanded and upgraded Water Reclamation Facility (WRF), when improvements to the current WWTP are complete in 2010