CONCENTRATIONS OF PHARMACEUTICALS THROUGH THE PENN STATE UNIVERSITY WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT AND IN THE LIVING FILTER GROUNDWATER

Open Access
Author:
Ayers, Brittany Elizabeth
Area of Honors:
Biological Engineering
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Heather Gall, Thesis Supervisor
  • Ali Demirci, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products
  • Emerging Contaminants
  • Living Filter
  • Wastewater Treatment Plant
Abstract:
Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are types of emerging contaminants that are increasingly being detected in surface water, groundwater, and drinking water around the world. Pharmaceuticals are biologically active compounds with the intent of causing desirable pharmacological effects on the user. The presence of PPCPs in the environment and drinking water is a topic of concern for many. Their long-term implications for non-target species such as aquatic wildlife, and on human health, is largely unknown. This study, which took place in State College, Pennsylvania, investigated the presence and concentrations of seven PPCPs (acetaminophen, caffeine, ampicillin, sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, naproxen, and ofloxacin) at the Pennsylvania State University’s wastewater treatment plant and “Living Filter” where the wastewater effluent is spray-irrigated. Once a week from October 5, 2016 through March 1, 2017, 24-hour composite samples were taken from five steps through the wastewater treatment process. Samples were also taken from 14 groundwater sampling wells at the Living Filter once a month from October 2016 through February 2017. The goal was to track PPCPs from the wastewater influent through the treatment plant and ultimately to the wells at the Living Filter to: 1) understand the performance of the wastewater treatment plant for removing these contaminants; and 2) assess the ability of the soil profile at the Living Filter to provide further treatment of the PPCPs that persist in the effluent. The results showed the presence of PPCPs in the wastewater effluent, and reduced concentrations at the Living Filter site, showing that the wastewater treatment plant is removing incidentally removing PPCPs, but perhaps not efficiently enough, and that the soil at the Living Filter is serving as a biogeochemical filter to remove some PPCPs. This information could lead to more research on different removal mechanisms through the wastewater treatment plant and could thus be utilized to determine a way to further remove PPCPs from water destined for the environment and human consumption.