Organic contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), pose a risk to water quality and the health of ecosystems. This study was designed to determine if a coastal community lacking point sources, such as waste water treatment plant effluent, could release PPCPs, herbicides, and plasticizers at detectable levels to their surface water and groundwater. Research was conducted in Liberty Bay, an embayment within Puget Sound, where 70% of the population (∼10,000) uses septic systems. Sampling included collection of groundwater and surface water with grab samples and the use of polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS). We analyzed for a broad spectrum of 25 commonly used compounds, including PPCPs, herbicides, and a flame retardant. Twelve contaminants were detected at least once; only N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, caffeine, and mecoprop, a herbicide not attributed to septic systems, were detected in more than one grab sample. The use of POCIS was essential because contaminants were present at very low levels (nanograms), which is common for PPCPs in general, but particularly so in such a small community. The use of POCIS allowed the detection of five compounds that were not present in grab samples. Data suggest that the community is contaminating local water with PPCPs; this effect is likely to increase as the population and product usage increase. The results presented here are a first step toward assessing the transport of herbicides and PPCPs into this coastal system.
Additional publication details
Occurrence of herbicides and pharmaceutical and personal care products in surface water and groundwater around Liberty Bay, Puget Sound, Washington