Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019NY002G

Characterizing transformation products of organic micropollutants in groundwater and hydrologically connected water supplies impacted by onsite wastewater treatment systems

Institute: New York
USGS Grant Number: G20AP00003
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2020-01-20 End Date: 2022-12-31
Total Federal Funds: $180,335 Total Non-Federal Funds: $181,625

Principal Investigators: Teng Zeng

Abstract: Wastewater management is one of the key groundwater resource protection issues facing densely developed regions served by onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS). OWTS are a known source of wastewater-derived organic micropollutants (OMPs) to the shallow groundwater and hydrologically connected water supplies. Following release from OWTS, OMPs may undergo biotic and abiotic transformations in the subsurface environment to form a suite of transformation products (TPs). Comparatively little information exists concerning the occurrence patterns, persistence, and ecotoxicological relevance of uncharacterized TPs in groundwater. The overall goal of this collaborative research is to close the fundamental knowledge gap regarding the sources and prevalence of TPs in OWTS-impacted groundwater on Long Island, New York. The proposed 3-year project is a collaborative effort between Assistant Professor Dr. Teng Zeng at Syracuse University (SU) and Dr. Patrick Phillips and Irene Fisher at the USGS New York Water Science Center. Our central hypothesis is that OWTS-derived OMPs undergo biotic transformation during subsurface infiltration and abiotic transformation during groundwater disinfection to form TPs that have previously been overlooked in OWTS management. We will test our hypothesis by pursuing three integrated research objectives, including (1) characterize the occurrence patterns of TPs in OWTS-impacted groundwater on Long Island, (2) examine the relative importance of biotransformation pathways in TP formation during subsurface infiltration, and (3) establish the formation patterns of TPs during groundwater chlorination. We will combine in-depth TP screening based on high resolution mass spectrometry with systematic field investigations and controlled laboratory experiments to accomplish the proposed research tasks. While this project focuses on OWTS on Long Island, the knowledge gained and research framework developed will have broad applicability to other regions where wastewater disposal occurs within the aquifer that supplies drinking water or has immediate hydrological connections with surface waters.