Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Rainfall-runoff of anthropogenic waste indicators from agricultural fields applied with municipal biosolids

February 1, 2017

The presence of anthropogenic contaminants such as antimicrobials, flame-retardants, and plasticizers in runoff from agricultural fields applied with municipal biosolids may pose a potential threat to the environment. This study assesses the potential for rainfall-induced runoff of 69 anthropogenic waste indicators (AWIs), widely found in household and industrial products, from biosolids amended field plots. The agricultural field containing the test plots was treated with biosolids for the first time immediately prior to this study. AWIs present in soil and biosolids were isolated by continuous liquid-liquid extraction and analyzed by full-scan gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Results for 18 AWIs were not evaluated due to their presence in field blank QC samples, and another 34 did not have sufficient detection frequency in samples to analyze trends in data. A total of 17 AWIs, including 4-nonylphenol, triclosan, and tris(2-butoxyethyl)phosphate, were present in runoff with acceptable data quality and frequency for subsequent interpretation. Runoff samples were collected 5 days prior to and 1, 9, and 35 days after biosolids application. Of the 17 AWIs considered, 14 were not detected in pre-application samples, or their concentrations were much smaller than in the sample collected one day after application. A range of trends was observed for individual AWI concentrations (typically from 0.1 to 10 μg/L) over the course of the study, depending on the combination of partitioning and degradation mechanisms affecting each compound most strongly. Overall, these results indicate that rainfall can mobilize anthropogenic contaminants from biosolids-amended agricultural fields, directly to surface waters and redistribute them to terrestrial sites away from the point of application via runoff. For 14 of 17 compounds examined, the potential for runoff remobilization during rainstorms persists even after three 100-year rainstorm-equivalent simulations and the passage of a month.

Publication Year 2017
Title Rainfall-runoff of anthropogenic waste indicators from agricultural fields applied with municipal biosolids
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.033
Authors James L. Gray, Thomas Borch, Edward T. Furlong, Jessica Davis, Tracy Yager, Yun-Ya Yang, Dana W. Kolpin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70192093
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Water Quality Laboratory; Branch of Analytical Serv (NWQL)