Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are finding their way into surface waters, and that represents a growing concern to Utah’s water managers. Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, lotions, fragrances, and soaps are all considered PPCPs, but the term PPCPs has also been adopted to represent a wide variety of chemicals used in consumer products, including plasticizers and fire retardants. Wastewater effluents have been shown to be a major source of PPCPs in surface waters since most are disposed of, directly or indirectly, into domestic sewage systems that are not specifically designed to treat them.
Several PPCPs have been identified in fish collected from East Canyon Creek, Utah, below the Snyderville wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). In late summer, effluent from the WWTP can be a major component of the stream flow.
Collecting plant samples in East Canyon Creek, Utah, to determine PPCP concentrations. Phot courtesy of Utah Center for Water Resources Research.
To better understand the potential impact of PPCPs originating from the Synderville WWTP, UCWRR researchers are:
- Determining the seasonal variation in PPCP loading to East Canyon Creek from the WWTP.
- Acertaining the extent of PPCP concentrations in the sediments, sediment dwelling organisms, and aquatic plants downstream from the W.W.T.P.
These activities will help delineate the potential fate of PPCPs in East Canyon Creek. Research to date has identified several PPCPs at and below the WWTP but not above, strongly suggesting that the source is the influent to the WWTP.
Benefits to the State
WWTPS are located throughout the state, so the results of this study will:
- Contribute to our overall understanding of the environmental fate and impact of PPCPs originating from WWTPs.
- Help regulatory agencies such as the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to prioritize risk management activities and expenditure of public dollars.
Looking to the Future
Continued field sampling and analysis will give researchers the data they need to examine the relationship between PPCP concentrations in water, sediments, and plants to better understand the fate of these compounds in effluent dominated rivers.