Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012CT257B

The Impacts of Wastewater from a Retirement Community on Fish Health

Institute: Connecticut
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2014-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $40,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $91,370

Principal Investigators: Thijs Bosker, Thijs Bosker

Abstract: Chemicals which affect the reproductive system of fish are omnipresent in the aquatic environment. Municipal wastewater effluents are a major source of these chemicals, as they contain pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs; e.g. synthetic estrogens and anti-androgens). PPCPs are not effectively treated in standard wastewater treatment plants and therefore many of them enter the environment with potency levels that may impede the reproductive output of fish and other aquatic organisms. Based on the elderly populations higher dependence on various medications, a disproportional amount of PPCPs are expected in their wastewater. This is confirmed by preliminary data on PPCP within final treated wastewater of the Heritage Village Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), which discharges into the Pomperaug River (Southbury, CT). A retirement community is the sole contributor to the Heritage Village WWTP, and very high levels of ibuprofen have been measured in the final treated wastewater effluent. Given this information, the effluent from the Heritage Village WWTP will provide an excellent opportunity to study the potential impacts of wastewater effluent from a retirement community on fish reproduction. In the proposed work, the impacts of final treated effluent of the Heritage Village WWTP on fish reproduction will be determined using both laboratory and field tools. In year one, a 14-day laboratory study will be conducted using fathead minnow, a model freshwater species used by the US Environmental Protection Agency to assess the impact of chemicals and effluent on fish reproduction. Fish will be exposed to a concentration series of 0, 1, 5 and 25% of final treated effluent. Furthermore, a field study will be conducted within the Pomperaug River using blacknose dace and creek chub. Both species are abundant, have a small home range, and have been shown to be sensitive to wastewater inputs. In year one, data will be collected on their reproductive cycle to determine optimal sampling time and natural variation to calculate optimal sample sizes. In year two, impacts of wastewater on reproduction will be determined by collecting fish upstream and downstream of the wastewater discharge location. The impacts of the effluent will be assessed at different levels of biological organization, including impacts on molecular (changes in gene expression), physiological (changes in sex steroid production) and organismal (gonadal stage and size) endpoints.