Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015MA437B

Microbial attenuation of non-point source pharmaceutical and personal care products pollution from antiquated septic systems in coastal communities

Institute: Massachuseits
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $29,971 Total Non-Federal Funds: $60,008

Principal Investigators: C. Butler, Kaoru Ikuma

Abstract: Non-point-source pollution from antiquated septic systems has become a major concern in the coastal estuaries and marine environments throughout Cape Cod. These communities are unique in that an estimated 97% of households are served by on-site septic systems. Presence and removal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), including beta-blockers, analgesics, synthetic hormones, antibiotics, and bug repellents, have been a rising concern in domestic wastewater treatment. Seasonal, coastal communities from Maine to South Carolina with a high septic system usage jeopardize sensitive coastal ecosystems vulnerable to eutrophication and PPCPs effects. Preliminary data suggests limited removal of PPCPs within the septic tank. However, transformation of many of these compounds has been observed in the shallow and likely, aerobic zone of the septic drain field. We hypothesize that the observed removal of PPCPs in the drain field is predominantly due to microbial transformations. The goal of this work is two-fold: 1) To determine the occurrence and fate parent PPCP compounds and metabolites of microbial transformation in septic system drain field soils and 2) To assess the impacts of PPCP presence in septic tank effluents on the soil microbial community in drain fields. The proposed studies will demonstrate the impact of the microbial communities within the drain field in remediating nutrients and detoxifying PPCPs in on-site septic systems in Cape Cod and other areas of New England. Non-point PPCP release from antiquated septic systems is not unique to Cape Cod.