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Wastewater indicators, hormones, sterols, antibiotics, and pharmaceuticals in soil at an agricultural field irrigated with domestic septage, central Minnesota, September 2014

September 19, 2018

Treated domestic septage can be used to irrigate agricultural fields as a disposal method or as a means to reuse water. Because traditional on-site treatment systems are not designed to remove wastewater indicators, hormones, sterols, antibiotics, and pharmaceuticals, land application of septage potentially results in soil contamination. Soils were collected and analyzed from four sites in a central Minnesota agricultural field irrigated with domestic septage. Soil samples were analyzed for 111 unique contaminants, including wastewater indicators, hormones, sterols, antibiotics, and pharmaceuticals. In total, 32 contaminants were detected in soil samples. Several wastewater indicators were detected in soil, including fragrances, alkylphenols, and flame-retardants, at concentrations ranging from 1 (2,6-dimethylnaphthalene at soil site 4) to 1,550 (β-sitosterol at soil site 1) micrograms per kilogram. Relative to the number of contaminants analyzed, steroid hormones had the most frequent detections in soil samples (33 percent), and androgens were more prevalent compared to estrogens (50 and 22 percent, respectively). Androgens and estrogens were detected at concentrations ranging from 0.21 (estrone at soil site 3) to 3.9 (dihydrotestosterone at soil site 1) micrograms per kilogram. Quantifiable concentrations of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals ranged from 1.4 (carbamazepine at soil site 1) to 540 (azithromycin at soil site 3) micrograms per kilogram. Two antibiotics, ciprofloxacin and ofloxacin, were detected at concentrations above the limit of quantification (greater than 1,000 micrograms per kilogram at soil sites 2 and 3). This pilot sampling indicates that soils may be a repository for some contaminants introduced to the environment through land application of domestic septage.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title Wastewater indicators, hormones, sterols, antibiotics, and pharmaceuticals in soil at an agricultural field irrigated with domestic septage, central Minnesota, September 2014
DOI 10.3133/sir20185100
Authors Sarah M. Elliott, Melinda L. Erickson, Aliesha L. Krall, Byron A. Adams
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2018-5100
Index ID sir20185100
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Minnesota Water Science Center