Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019NH174B

Anthropogenic Micropollutant Inventory of Great Bay Estuary, NH

Institute: New Hampshire
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-06-18 End Date: 2020-06-17
Total Federal Funds: $15,027 Total Non-Federal Funds: $44,734

Principal Investigators: Dr. Jenna Luek

Abstract: The release of trace levels of anthropogenic, persistent chemicals into our natural waters by modern society can have powerful, long lasting impacts. It is now estimated that the long-term viability of over 50% of the killer whales in existence will be threatened due to PCB exposure; a compound that was internationally banned over 3 decades ago (Desforges, 2018). Oxybenzone and octinoxate, common UV blocking chemicals in sunscreen, have been found to seriously damage coral reefs in the Virgin Islands and Hawaii (Downs et al, 2016). Locally, the towns of Portsmouth, Dover, and Merrimack have been forced to close major municipal drinking water wells due to the detection of nanogram per liter PFOS and PFOA concentrations. There are over 84,000 chemicals that have been manufactured or processed in the United States to date (TSCA, 2018); of these approximately 60,000 were allowed on the market without EPA safety testing, 7,700 are actively used in “significant amountsâ€, and approximately 2,000 new chemicals are registered annually. After commercial release, the burden of proof continues to be placed on the USEPA to assess whether a substance poses an “unreasonable risk†before any action can be made. Unfortunately, the extent of human health and environment impacts caused by chemicals occur slowly over decades and we have a shockingly limited understanding of the micropollutant chemical inventories in our natural waters.For these reasons, it is important for scientists, environmentally focused non-profits and other public agencies to assess these anthropogenic micropollutants in our natural surface waters. Thankfully, increasingly powerful mass spectrometry tools have been made it possible to monitor a large number of micropollutants in a single analysis. We aim to assess micropollutant distribution in the Great Bay estuary, New Hampshire using these powerful high-resolution mass spectrometry tools. The results of these assays are critical for more fully assessing the societal impact on our local waters and linking these to ecological and human health impacts. This work will address all priority aspects of the NH-WRRC Surface Water consideration as well as critical drinking water quality considerations. Specifically, our team will establish five surface water sampling locations based upon land use considerations; infrastructure directly impacting the bay (i.e. wastewater treatment plants, highway drainage pipes, etc.) and previous and ongoing chemical monitoring locations (e.g., Gulfwatch and Mussel Watch, PTAPP sites, GBNERR, DES sampling locations). Samples will be collected from these locations and analyzed for micropollutants by UNH researchers through collaboration with external laboratories due to a lack of appropriate instrumentation and established methodology at UNH. We plan to collaborate with Dr. Michael Gonsior at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to access high resolution mass spectrometers for micropollutants analysis using nontargeted and targeted methods. These collaborations will bring critical analytical expertise back to UNH as well as preliminary data to inform the chemical state of our watershed and seed future proposals in rapidly growing research areas. Data sets will then be used to identify the primary micropollutants present in Great Bay estuarine waters, compare results against previous local and national data sets and provide preliminary correlations between land use and micropollutant loading to seed future proposals.