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Project ID:2006OK60B

Title: Occurrence of Pharmaceuticals, Hormones, and other Organic Wastewater Contaminants in Cave Water within the Lower Neosho and Illinois River Basins, Oklahoma

Project Type: Research

Start Date: 03/01/2006

End Date: 02/28/2007

Congressional District:

Focus Categories: Non Point Pollution, Toxic Substances, Groundwater

Keywords: Ozark cavefish, groundwater contamination, organic wastewater constituents, pharmaceuticals

Principal Investigator: Bidwell, Joseph R. (Oklahoma State University)

Federal Funds: $25,000

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $50,000

Abstract: Run-off and point-source input associated with urbanization and poultry and livestock production have been identified as significant threats to surface water quality in the Illinois and Neosho River Basins of the Ozark Plateau. While much of this focus has centered on nutrient loading and associated eutrophication, the input derived from these sources may also contain organic wastewater contaminants (OWCs) including antibiotics, residues of hormones and hormone-mimicking chemicals and other pharmaceutical compounds. Recent studies by the US Geological Survey have indicated the presence of these contaminants in a number of US surface waters including tributary streams of the Illinois and Lower Neosho Rivers. The risk associated with contaminant input to these rivers may extend beyond surface waters since their basins largely occur in a karstic landscape of sinkholes, disappearing springs and caves. These formations may allow surface-water contaminants to enter the subterranean streams and associated cave habitats.

The prevalence and potential impacts of OWCs in Ozark cave streams of Oklahoma are currently unknown. However, given the agricultural activities, wastewater discharges, and recent detection of OWCs in surface streams near these habitats, contaminants may be entering them. This is a significant concern since water quality degradation and the effects of environmental pollutants have been identified as significant threats to cave-dwelling aquatic organisms. In Oklahoma, several aquatic cave species that are listed as threatened or endangered occur in the Illinois and Lower Neosho basins including the Ozark cavefish, Amblyopsis rosae and the Oklahoma cave crayfish, Cambarus tartraus.

The objectives of the proposed study are to 1) determine the presence of lipophillic and water soluble pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants at three surface-water sites and in ground water in six caves using Semi Permeable Membrane Devices (SPMD) and Polar Organic Chemical Integrated Sampler (POCIS), and 2) evaluate the potential for sub-lethal effects associated with exposure to water from the sampling sites through 7-day bioassays with the fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas. Extracts from the passive samplers will be analyzed for compounds commonly found in domestic and industrial wastewater including surfactants, food additives, flame retardants, solvents, plasticizers, fragrances, fecal sterols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, commonly used domestic pesticides, common agricultural antibiotics and steroidal hormones.

By determining if these residues are present in selected caves in Oklahoma and/or if biological effects are associated with exposure to cave water, this project will provide an important first step toward understanding the risk chemicals may pose to these sensitive habitats in Oklahoma.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by: John Schefter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 03, 2008
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