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Occurrence and Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Pharmaceuticals in a Temperate-Region Wastewater Effluent-Dominated Stream: Variable Inputs and Differential Attenuation Yield Evolving Complex Exposure Mixtures

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posted on 06.10.2020, 19:11 by Hui Zhi, Dana W. Kolpin, Rebecca D. Klaper, Luke R. Iwanowicz, Shannon M. Meppelink, Gregory H. LeFevre
Effluent-dominated streams are becoming increasingly common in temperate regions and generate complex pharmaceutical mixture exposure conditions that may impact aquatic organisms via drug–drug interactions. Here, we quantified spatiotemporal pharmaceutical exposure concentrations and composition mixture dynamics during baseflow conditions at four sites in a temperate-region effluent-dominated stream (upstream, at, and progressively downstream from effluent discharge). Samples were analyzed monthly for 1 year for 109 pharmaceuticals/degradates using a comprehensive U.S. Geological Survey analytical method and biweekly for 2 years focused on 14 most common pharmaceuticals/degradates. We observed a strong chemical gradient with pharmaceuticals only sporadically detected upstream from the effluent. Seventy-four individual pharmaceuticals/degradates were detected, spanning 5 orders of magnitude from 0.28 to 13 500 ng/L, with 38 compounds detected in >50% of samples. “Biweekly” compounds represented 77 ± 8% of the overall pharmaceutical concentration. The antidiabetic drug metformin consistently had the highest concentration with limited in-stream attenuation. The antihistamine drug fexofenadine inputs were greater during warm- than cool-season conditions but also attenuated faster. Differential attenuation of individual pharmaceuticals (i.e., high = citalopram; low = metformin) contributed to complex mixture evolution along the stream reach. This research demonstrates that variable inputs over multiple years and differential in-stream attenuation of individual compounds generate evolving complex mixture exposure conditions for biota, with implications for interactive effects.