Wastewater-treatment-plant (WWTP) effluents are a demonstrated source of pharmaceuticals to the environment. During 2004-09, a study was conducted to identify pharmaceutical compounds in effluents from WWTPs (including two that receive substantial discharges from pharmaceutical formulation facilities), streamwater, and reservoirs. The methods used to determine and quantify concentrations of seven pharmaceuticals are described. In addition, the report includes information on pharmaceuticals formulated or potentially formulated at the two pharmaceutical formulation facilities that provide substantial discharge to two of the WWTPs, and potential limitations to these data are discussed. The analytical methods used to provide data on the seven pharmaceuticals (including opioids, muscle relaxants, and other pharmaceuticals) in filtered water samples also are described. Data are provided on method performance, including spike data, method detection limit results, and an estimation of precision. Quality-assurance data for sample collection and handling are included. Quantitative data are presented for the seven pharmaceuticals in water samples collected at WWTP discharge points, from streams, and at reservoirs. Occurrence data also are provided for 19 pharmaceuticals that were qualitatively identified. Flow data at selected WWTP and streams are presented.
Between 2004-09, 35-38 effluent samples were collected from each of three WWTPs in New York and analyzed for seven pharmaceuticals. Two WWTPs (NY2 and NY3) receive substantial inflows (greater than 20 percent of plant flow) from pharmaceutical formulation facilities (PFF) and one (NY1) receives no PFF flow. Samples of effluents from 23 WWTPs across the United States were analyzed once for these pharmaceuticals as part of a national survey. Maximum pharmaceutical effluent concentrations for the national survey and NY1 effluent samples were generally less than 1 ug/L. Four pharmaceuticals (methadone, oxycodone, butalbital and metaxalone) in samples of NY3 effluent had median concentrations ranging from 3.4 to greater than 400 ug/L. Maximum concentrations of oxycodone (1,700 ug/L) and metaxalone (3,800 ug/L) in samples from NY3 effluent exceeded 1,000 ug/L. Three pharmaceuticals (butalbital, carisoprodol, and oxycodone) in samples of NY2 effluent had median concentrations ranging from 2 to 11 ug/L. These findings suggest that current
manufacturing practices at these PFFs can result in pharmaceutical concentrations from 10 to 1,000 times higher than those typically found in WWTP effluents.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Method Description, Quality Assurance, Environmental Data, and other Information for Analysis of Pharmaceuticals in Wastewater-Treatment-Plant Effluents, Streamwater, and Reservoirs, 2004-2009