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Bioactive contaminants of emerging concern in National Park waters of the northern Colorado Plateau, USA

May 2, 2018

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), wastewater indicators (WWIs), and pesticides (herein, Contaminants of Emerging Concern [CECs]) have been documented in surface waters throughout the world and have associated risks to aquatic life. While much research has focused on temperate and urbanized watersheds, less is known about CEC presence in semi-arid landscapes, where water availability is limited and populations are low. CEC presence in water and sediment is reported for 21 sites in eight U.S. national parks in the northern Colorado Plateau region. From 2012 to 2016, at least one PPCP and/or WWI was detected at most sites on over half of sampling visits, indicating that CECs are not uncommon even in isolated areas. CEC detections were generally fewer and at lower concentrations than in urbanized or agricultural watersheds. Consistent with studies from other U.S. regions, the most frequently detected CECs in this study include DEET, caffeine, organophosphorus flame retardants, and bisphenol A in water and fecal indicators and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in sediment. Maximum concentrations in this study were generally below available water quality benchmarks, sediment quality guidelines, and risk assessment thresholds associated with vertebrates. Additional work is needed to assess the potential activity of hormones, which had high reporting limits in our study, and potential bioactivity of environmental concentrations for invertebrates, microbial communities, and algae. Potential sources of CEC contamination include upstream wastewater effluent discharges and National Park Service invasive-plant-control herbicide applications. CEC occurrence patterns and similarities between continuous and isolated flow locations suggest that direct contamination from individual visitors may also occur. While our data indicate there is little aquatic health risk associated with CECs at our sites, our results demonstrate the ubiquity of CECs on the landscape and a continued need for public outreach concerning resource-use ethics and the potential effects of upstream development.

Publication Year 2018
Title Bioactive contaminants of emerging concern in National Park waters of the northern Colorado Plateau, USA
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.04.332
Authors Rebecca H Weissinger, Brett R. Blackwell, Kristen Keteles, William A. Battaglin, Paul M. Bradley
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70196809
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization South Atlantic Water Science Center