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Steroid Estrogens, Nonylphenol Ethoxylate Metabolites, and Other Wastewater Contaminants in Groundwater Affected by a Residential Septic System on Cape Cod, MA

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journal contribution
posted on 15.08.2006, 00:00 by Christopher H. Swartz, Sharanya Reddy, Mark J. Benotti, Haifei Yin, Larry B. Barber, Bruce J. Brownawell, Ruthann A. Rudel
Septic systems serve approximately 25% of U.S. households and may be an important source of estrogenic and other organic wastewater contaminants (OWC) to groundwater. We monitored several estrogenic OWC, including nonylphenol (NP), nonylphenol mono- and diethoxycarboxylates (NP1EC and NP2EC), the steroid hormones 17β-estradiol (E2), estrone (E1) and their glucuronide and sulfate conjugates, and other OWC such as methylene blue active substances (MBAS), caffeine and its degradation product paraxanthine, and two fluorescent whitening agents in a residential septic system and in downgradient groundwater. E1 and E2 were present predominantly as free estrogens in groundwater, and near-source groundwater concentrations of all OWC were highest in the suboxic to anoxic portion of the wastewater plume, where concentrations of most OWC were similar to those observed in the septic tank on the same day. NP and NP2EC were up to 6- to 30-fold higher, and caffeine and paraxanthine were each 60-fold lower than septic tank concentrations, suggesting net production and removal, respectively, of these constituents. At the most shallow, oxic depth, concentrations of all OWC except for NP2EC were substantially lower than in the tank and in deeper wells. Yet boron, specific conductance, and the sum of nitrate-and ammonia-nitrogen were highest at this shallow depth, suggesting preferential losses of OWC along the more oxic flow lines. As far as 6.0 m downgradient, concentrations of many OWC were within a factor of 2 of near-source concentrations. The results suggest that there is the potential for migration of these OWC, which are unregulated and not routinely monitored, in groundwater.