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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Fate and Transport of Three Pharmaceuticals in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta


Erratum dated 2014 June 25

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are found in surface waters worldwide. Wastewater treatment plant effluent is a major source of these contaminants. The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta (Delta) is a unique aquatic ecosystem, a source of drinking water for over 25 million Californians, and a primary source of water for Central Valley agriculture. The sharp decline of four pelagic fish species in the Delta in the last decade is just one of several indicators that the ecosystem is severely impaired. Several wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) discharge into the Delta, directly or through tributaries. The presence of PPCPs in the Delta has received very little attention relative to the immense effort underway to rehabilitate the ecosystem. This study determined concentrations of PPCPs in the Sacramento River in the vicinity of the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant using passive sampler monitoring. These data were used to estimate loads of three of the detected pharmaceuticals (carbamazepine, fluoxetine, and trimethoprim) from nine other WWTPs that discharge to the Delta. The 2-D, finite element, Resource Management Associates (RMA) Delta Model was then applied to determine the distribution that might result from these discharges. The model was run for the 2006, 2007, and 2009 water years. Results indicate that it is feasible that WWTP discharges could result in chronic presence of these pharmaceuticals at low ng L-1 levels at all 45 model output locations and, therefore, aquatic organisms within the Delta may be continually exposed to these contaminants.

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