New Waves April 2011

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

TWRI grant recipient studies the fate of pharmaceuticals in the environment

By Melanie Orth

TWRI grant recipient studies the fate of pharmaceuticals in the environment Adcharee Karnjanapiboonwong, a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Toxicology at Texas Tech University, worked with her advising professor, Dr. Todd Anderson, to study the fate of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) at a wastewater application site.

Karnjanapiboonwong received a 2009–10 Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) research grant. The $5,000 grant allowed her to assess the fate of potential PPCPs from a wastewater treatment plant to a land application site where the compounds could transfer from wastewater to soil and groundwater.

She said her research results indicated that PPCPs have a tendency to attach to sediment in the environment and the capacity of these compounds to become attached to soils is primarily related to soil organic carbon.

“Results also showed that plants can accumulate these PPCPs in roots and leaves, which indicates that the potential for accumulation of PPCPs in plants irrigated with wastewater effluent applied to land exists,” she said.

Since PPCPs remaining in treated wastewater can leach or percolate through the soil to groundwater supplies during rain events or subsurface flow, there are increasing concerns about these compounds in the effluent entering potential drinking water resources and the environment, Karnjanapiboonwong said.

“Data from my research can provide useful information for the upgrade of wastewater treatment processes or aid in management decisions on the application of treated wastewater to land, which can help reduce potential PPCP exposure,” she said.

After she completes her degree, Karnjanapiboonwong said she would like to work as a research scientist studying the fate and transport mechanisms of environmental contaminants. She hopes to develop novel approaches for the remediation of contaminants in soil and water resources.

This project was funded by TWRI through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as part of the National Institutes for Water Research annual research program. TWRI is the designated institute for water resources research in Texas.

For more information on Karnjanapiboonwong’s research and to read her final report, visit the TWRI/USGS Research Grants webpage.

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