Contaminants of emerging concern in urban stormwater: Spatiotemporal patterns and removal by iron-enhanced sand filters (IESFs)

Fairbairn, D. J., Elliott, S. M., Kiesling, R. L., Schoenfuss, H. L., Ferrey, M. L., & Westerhoff, B. M. (2018). “Contaminants of emerging concern in urban stormwater: Spatiotemporal patterns and removal by iron-enhanced sand filters (IESFs).” Water Research, 145, 332–345.

Abstract: Numerous contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) typically occur in urban rivers. Wastewater effluents are a major source of many CECs. Urban runoff (stormwater) is a major urban water budget component and may constitute another major CEC pathway. Yet, stormwater-based CEC field studies are rare. This research investigated 384 CECs in 36 stormwater samples in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Nine sampling sites included three large stormwater conveyances (pipes) and three paired iron-enhanced sand filters (IESFs; untreated inlets and treated outlets). The 123 detected compounds included commercial-consumer compounds, veterinary and human pharmaceuticals, lifestyle and personal care compounds, pesticides, and others. Thirty-one CECs were detected in ≥50% of samples. Individual samples contained a median of 35 targeted CECs (range: 18–54). Overall, median concentrations were ≥10 ng/L for 25 CECs and ≥100 ng/L for 9 CECs. Ranked, hierarchical linear modeling indicated significant seasonal- and site type-based concentration variability for 53 and 30 CECs, respectively, with observed patterns corresponding to CEC type, source, usage, and seasonal hydrology. A primarily warm-weather, diffuse, runoff-based profile included many herbicides. A second profile encompassed winter and/or late summer samples enriched with some recalcitrant, hydrophobic compounds (e.g., PAHs), especially at pipes, suggesting conservative, less runoff-dependent sources (e.g., sediments). A third profile, indicative of mixed conservative/non-runoff, runoff, and/or atmospheric sources and transport that collectively affect a variety of conditions, included various fungicides, lifestyle, non-prescription, and commercial-consumer CECs. Generally, pipe sites had large, diverse land-use catchments, and showed more frequent detections of diverse CECs, but often at lower concentrations; while untreated sites (with smaller, more residential-catchments) demonstrated greater detections of “pseudo-persistent” and other ubiquitous or residentially-associated CECs. Although untreated stormwater transports an array of CECs to receiving waters, IESF treatment significantly removed concentrations of 14 (29%) of the 48 most detected CECs; for these, median removal efficiencies were 26%–100%. Efficient removal of some hydrophobic (e.g., PAHs, bisphenol A) and polar-hydrophilic (e.g., caffeine, nicotine) compounds indicated particulate-bound contaminant filtration and for certain dissolved contaminants, sorption.

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