State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2010DE173B
Title: Quantifying the Role of Carbon Amount and Quality for Transport of Contaminants on Our Landscapes: A Watershed-Scale Model
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2011
End Date: 2/28/2012
Congressional District: At large
Focus Categories: Non Point Pollution, Hydrogeochemistry, Nutrients
Keywords: Contaminant transport, dissolved organic carbon, watershed models
Principal Investigator: Inamdar, Shreeram
Federal Funds: $ 24,175
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 48,350
Abstract: The importance of carbon (C) for the transport of contaminants such as trace elements, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics is well recognized. Experimental studies have clearly shown that contaminants such as trace elements, pesticides and antibiotics are preferentially adsorbed to the hydrophobic or humic phase of carbon and are transported with these constituents. Plot and laboratory-scale experiments have also shown that these contaminants could move both with the particulate (POC - size greater than 0.45 µm) as well as dissolved forms of carbon (DOC). Despite this recognition, very few watershed-scale studies have explicitly evaluated the relative contributions of particulate and dissolved C to the total carbon export from the catchment and the contribution of these individual C forms to contaminant transport. Furthermore, we know even less about how much of the contaminant export occurs with humic or non-humic fractions of carbon. The presence of trace elements, hormones and antibiotics in our nation's surface waters is already of significant concern. Hormones, antibiotics, and other such contaminants have also been characterized as "emerging" contaminants. Another factor that is notable is the increasing use of animal manure on our agricultural landscapes. In states like Delaware, which has a surplus of manure or poultry litter, many farmers are increasingly adopting manure or litter as a substitute to synthetic fertilizer because of the easy availability of manure and the increasing costs of synthetic fertilizer. While animal manures are rich in nutrients and organic matter (carbon) which are beneficial to the soil, they have also been found to include trace elements like arsenic, hormones like estrogens, and antibiotics like tetracycline. Thus application of animal manures to agricultural fields provides a carbon-rich substrate potentially containing a wide variety of pollutants. Understanding how these contaminants associate with carbon and how they are transported with carbon constituents in runoff is critical for pollution mitigation and watershed management. The overall intent of this proposal is to address these important gaps in our knowledge by determining the role of particulate and dissolved forms (POC and DOC, respectively) and the humic and non-humic components of carbon for the transport of contaminants at the watershed-scale.

Progress/Completion Report, 2010, PDF
Progress/Completion Report, 2011, PDF

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