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Concept: Water pollution


Drinking water contamination with poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) poses risks to the developmental, immune, metabolic, and endocrine health of consumers. We present a spatial analysis of 2013-2015 national drinking water PFAS concentrations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) program. The number of industrial sites that manufacture or use these compounds, the number of military fire training areas, and the number of wastewater treatment plants are all significant predictors of PFAS detection frequencies and concentrations in public water supplies. Among samples with detectable PFAS levels, each additional military site within a watershed’s eight-digit hydrologic unit is associated with a 20% increase in PFHxS, a 10% increase in both PFHpA and PFOA, and a 35% increase in PFOS. The number of civilian airports with personnel trained in the use of aqueous film-forming foams is significantly associated with the detection of PFASs above the minimal reporting level. We find drinking water supplies for 6 million U.S. residents exceed US EPA’s lifetime health advisory (70 ng/L) for PFOS and PFOA. Lower analytical reporting limits and additional sampling of smaller utilities serving <10000 individuals and private wells would greatly assist in further identifying PFAS contamination sources.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Sewage treatment, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Drinking water, Stormwater, Safe Drinking Water Act, Environmental protection


Imidacloprid is one of the most widely used insecticides in the world. Its concentration in surface water exceeds the water quality norms in many parts of the Netherlands. Several studies have demonstrated harmful effects of this neonicotinoid to a wide range of non-target species. Therefore we expected that surface water pollution with imidacloprid would negatively impact aquatic ecosystems. Availability of extensive monitoring data on the abundance of aquatic macro-invertebrate species, and on imidacloprid concentrations in surface water in the Netherlands enabled us to test this hypothesis. Our regression analysis showed a significant negative relationship (P<0.001) between macro-invertebrate abundance and imidacloprid concentration for all species pooled. A significant negative relationship was also found for the orders Amphipoda, Basommatophora, Diptera, Ephemeroptera and Isopoda, and for several species separately. The order Odonata had a negative relationship very close to the significance threshold of 0.05 (P = 0.051). However, in accordance with previous research, a positive relationship was found for the order Actinedida. We used the monitoring field data to test whether the existing three water quality norms for imidacloprid in the Netherlands are protective in real conditions. Our data show that macrofauna abundance drops sharply between 13 and 67 ng l(-1). For aquatic ecosystem protection, two of the norms are not protective at all while the strictest norm of 13 ng l(-1) (MTR) seems somewhat protective. In addition to the existing experimental evidence on the negative effects of imidacloprid on invertebrate life, our study, based on data from large-scale field monitoring during multiple years, shows that serious concern about the far-reaching consequences of the abundant use of imidacloprid for aquatic ecosystems is justified.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Ecosystem, Aquatic ecology, Aquatic ecosystem, Systems ecology, Marine pollution, Ecosystems


Artificial sweeteners have been widely incorporated in human food products for aid in weight loss regimes, dental health protection and dietary control of diabetes. Some of these widely used compounds can pass non-degraded through wastewater treatment systems and are subsequently discharged to groundwater and surface waters. Measurements of artificial sweeteners in rivers used for drinking water production are scarce. In order to determine the riverine concentrations of artificial sweeteners and their usefulness as a tracer of wastewater at the scale of an entire watershed, we analyzed samples from 23 sites along the entire length of the Grand River, a large river in Southern Ontario, Canada, that is impacted by agricultural activities and urban centres. Municipal water from household taps was also sampled from several cities within the Grand River Watershed. Cyclamate, saccharin, sucralose, and acesulfame were found in elevated concentrations despite high rates of biological activity, large daily cycles in dissolved oxygen and shallow river depth. The maximum concentrations that we measured for sucralose (21 µg/L), cyclamate (0.88 µg/L), and saccharin (7.2 µg/L) are the highest reported concentrations of these compounds in surface waters to date anywhere in the world. Acesulfame persists at concentrations that are up to several orders of magnitude above the detection limit over a distance of 300 km and it behaves conservatively in the river, recording the wastewater contribution from the cumulative population in the basin. Acesulfame is a reliable wastewater effluent tracer in rivers. Furthermore, it can be used to assess rates of nutrient assimilation, track wastewater plume dilution, separate human and animal waste contributions and determine the relative persistence of emerging contaminants in impacted watersheds where multiple sources confound the usefulness of other tracers. The effects of artificial sweeteners on aquatic biota in rivers and in the downstream Great Lakes are largely unknown.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Wastewater, Environmental engineering, Effluent, Sweeteners, Sucralose


BACKGROUND: Urban slums in developing countries that are not recognized by the government often lack legal access to municipal water supplies. This results in the creation of insecure “informal” water distribution systems (i.e., community-run or private systems outside of the government’s purview) that may increase water-borne disease risk. We evaluate an informal water distribution system in a slum in Mumbai, India using commonly accepted health and social equity indicators. We also identify predictors of bacterial contamination of drinking water using logistic regression analysis. METHODS: Data were collected through two studies: the 2008 Baseline Needs Assessment survey of 959 households and the 2011 Seasonal Water Assessment, in which 229 samples were collected for water quality testing over three seasons. Water samples were collected in each season from the following points along the distribution system: motors that directly tap the municipal supply (i.e., “point-of-source” water), hoses going to slum lanes, and storage and drinking water containers from 21 households. RESULTS: Depending on season, households spend an average of 52 to 206 times more than the standard municipal charge of Indian rupees 2.25 (US dollars 0.04) per 1000 liters for water, and, in some seasons, 95% use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 liters per capita per day. During the monsoon season, 50% of point-of-source water samples were contaminated. Despite a lack of point-of-source water contamination in other seasons, stored drinking water was contaminated in all seasons, with rates as high as 43% for E. coli and 76% for coliform bacteria. In the multivariate logistic regression analysis, monsoon and summer seasons were associated with significantly increased odds of drinking water contamination. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings reveal severe deficiencies in water-related health and social equity indicators. All bacterial contamination of drinking water occurred due to post-source contamination during storage in the household, except during the monsoon season, when there was some point-of-source water contamination. This suggests that safe storage and household water treatment interventions may improve water quality in slums. Problems of exorbitant expense, inadequate quantity, and poor point-of-source quality can only be remedied by providing unrecognized slums with equitable access to municipal water supplies.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Water quality, Drinking water, Waterborne diseases, Water treatment, Water supply, Water supply network


Macrophyte decomposition is important for carbon and nutrient cycling in lake ecosystems. Currently, little is known about how this process responds to detritus quality and water nutrient conditions in eutrophic shallow lakes in which incomplete decomposition of detritus accelerates the lake terrestrialization process. In this study, we investigated the effects of detritus quality and water nutrient concentrations on macrophyte decomposition in Lake Baiyangdian, China, by analyzing the decomposition of three major aquatic plants at three sites with different pollution intensities (low, medium, and high pollution sites). Detritus quality refers to detritus nutrient contents as well as C:N, C:P, and N:P mass ratios in this study. Effects of detritus mixtures were tested by combining pairs of representative macrophytes at ratios of 75:25, 50:50 and 25:75 (mass basis). The results indicate that the influence of species types on decomposition was stronger than that of site conditions. Correlation analysis showed that mass losses at the end of the experimental period were significantly controlled by initial detritus chemistry, especially by the initial phosphorus (P) content, carbon to nitrogen (C:N), and carbon to phosphorus (C:P) mass ratios in the detritus. The decomposition processes were also influenced by water chemistry. The NO(3)-N and NH(4)-N concentrations in the lake water retarded detritus mass loss at the low and high pollution sites, respectively. Net P mineralization in detritus was observed at all sites and detritus P release at the high pollution site was slower than at the other two sites. Nonadditive effects of mixtures tended to be species specific due to the different nutrient contents in each species. Results suggest that the nonadditive effects varied significantly among different sites, indicating that interactions between the detritus quality in species mixtures and site water chemistry may be another driver controlling decomposition in eutrophic shallow lakes.

Concepts: Oxygen, Plant, Lake, Eutrophication, Hydrogen, Water pollution, Nitrogen, Lakes


Carotenoids are protective pigments present in many aquatic organisms that reduce the photooxidative stress induced by short-wavelenght solar radiation, yet increase their susceptibility to predators. Arctodiaptomus spinosus, a calanoid copepod typically found in many fishless shallow soda lakes, shows large between-lake differences in pigmentation. Here, we attribute these differences to the environmental state of these ecosystems, namely, ‘dark water’ lakes with submersed vegetation and turbid ‘white’ lakes lacking macrophytes. Copepod carotenoid concentration in the turbid ‘white’ lakes was significantly (about 20-fold) higher than in the ‘dark water’ ones, although the latter systems were characterized by higher transparency. In addition, males had on a dry weight basis around three times higher carotenoid concentrations than females. Mycosporine-like amino acids (direct UV screening substances) were found in all cases, but in low concentration. The environmental conditions in these ecosystems were largely shaped by the presence/absence of submersed macrophytes Thus, in the turbid lakes, the strong wind-driven mixis allows for copepods to be brought to the surface and being exposed to solar radiation, whereas in ‘dark water’ ones, macrophytes reduce water turbulence and additionally provide shelter. Our results explain the counter-intuitive notion of strong red pigmentation in copepods from a turbid ecosystem and suggest that factors other than high UV transparency favor carotenoid accumulation in zooplankton.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Acid, Concentration, Water pollution, Sunlight, Pigment, Pigments, Calanoida


The contaminant concentrations over which type strains of the species Dehalogenimonas alkenigignens and Dehalogenimonas lykanthroporepellens were able to reductively dechlorinate 1,2-dichloroethane (1,2-DCA), 1,2-dichloropropane (1,2-DCP), and 1,1,2-trichloroethane (1,1,2-TCA) were evaluated. Although initially isolated from an environment with much lower halogenated solvent concentrations, D. alkenigignens IP3-3T was found to reductively dehalogenate chlorinated alkanes at concentrations comparable to D. lykanthroporepellens BL-DC-9T. Both species dechlorinated 1,2-DCA, 1,2-DCP, and 1,1,2-TCA present at initial concentrations at least as high as 8.7, 4.0, and 3.5 mM, respectively. The ability of Dehalogenimonas spp. to carry out anaerobic reductive dechlorination even in the presence of high concentrations of chlorinated aliphatic alkanes has important implications for remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater.

Concepts: Ethanol, Water pollution, Benzene, Environmental remediation, Solution, Hexane, Environmental chemistry, Pentane


A 0.6 hectare artificial reef of local rock and recycled concrete sleepers was constructed in December 2006 at Parker Point in the industrial port of Dampier, western Australia, with the aim of providing an environmental offset for a nearshore coral community lost to land reclamation. Corals successfully colonised the artificial reef, despite the relatively harsh environmental conditions at the site (annual water temperature range 18-32°C, intermittent high turbidity, frequent cyclones, frequent nearby ship movements). Coral settlement to the artificial reef was examined by terracotta tile deployments, and later stages of coral community development were examined by in-situ visual surveys within fixed 25 x 25 cm quadrats on the rock and concrete substrates. Mean coral density on the tiles varied from 113 ± 17 SE to 909 ± 85 SE per m(2) over five deployments, whereas mean coral density in the quadrats was only 6.0 ± 1.0 SE per m(2) at eight months post construction, increasing to 24.0 ± 2.1 SE per m(2) at 62 months post construction. Coral taxa colonising the artificial reef were a subset of those on the surrounding natural reef, but occurred in different proportions-Pseudosiderastreatayami, Mycediumelephantotus and Leptastreapurpurea being disproportionately abundant on the artificial reef. Coral cover increased rapidly in the later stages of the study, reaching 2.3 ± 0.7 SE % at 62 months post construction. This study indicates that simple materials of opportunity can provide a suitable substrate for coral recruitment in Dampier Harbour, and that natural colonisation at the study site remains sufficient to initiate a coral community on artificial substrate despite ongoing natural and anthropogenic perturbations.

Concepts: Coral reef, Scleractinia, Water pollution, Environmental science, Colonialism, Land reclamation, Colonization, Turbidity


Global climate change is causing a wastage of glaciers and threatening biodiversity in glacier-fed ecosystems. The high turbidity typically found in those ecosystems, which is caused by inorganic particles and result of the erosive activity of glaciers is a key environmental factor influencing temperature and light availability, as well as other factors in the water column. Once these lakes loose hydrological connectivity to glaciers and turn clear, the accompanying environmental changes could represent a potential bottleneck for the established local diversity with yet unknown functional consequences. Here, we study three lakes situated along a turbidity gradient as well as one clear unconnected lake and evaluate seasonal changes in their bacterial community composition and diversity. Further, we assess potential consequences for community functioning. Glacier runoff represented a diverse source community for the lakes and several taxa were able to colonize downstream turbid habitats, although they were not found in the clear lake. Operational taxonomic unit-based alpha diversity and phylogenetic diversity decreased along the turbidity gradient, but metabolic functional diversity was negatively related to turbidity. No evidence for multifunctional redundancy, which may allow communities to maintain functioning upon alterations in diversity, was found. Our study gives a first view on how glacier-fed lake bacterial communities are affected by the melting of glaciers and indicates that diversity and community composition significantly change when hydrological connectivity to the glacier is lost and lakes turn clear.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 15 January 2016; doi:10.1038/ismej.2015.245.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Lake, Climate, Water pollution, Antarctica, Surface runoff, Turbidity, Glacier mass balance


The biotransformation of diclofenac during wastewater treatment was investigated. Attached growth biomass from a carrier-filled compartment of a hybrid-MBBR at the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland was used to test the biotransformation. Laboratory-scale incubation experiments were performed with diclofenac and carriers and high-resolution LC-QTof-MS was implemented to monitor the biotransformation. Up to 20 diclofenac transformation products (TPs) were detected. Tentative structures were proposed for 16 of the TPs after characterization by MS(2) fragmentation and/or inferring the structure from the transformation pathway and the molecular formula given by the high resolution ionic mass. The remaining four TPs were unambiguously identified via analytical reference standards. The postulated reactions forming the TPs were: hydroxylation, decarboxylation, oxidation, amide formation, ring-opening and reductive dechlorination. Incubation experiments of individual TPs, those which were available as reference standards, provided a deeper look into the transformation pathways. It was found that the transformation consists of four main pathways but no pathway accounted for a clear majority of the transformation. A 10-day monitoring campaign of the full-scale plant confirmed an 88% removal of diclofenac (from approximately 1.6 μg/L in WWTP influent) and the formation of TPs as found in the laboratory was observed. One of the TPs, N-(2,6-dichlorophenyl)-2-indolinone detected at concentrations of around 0.25 μg/L in WWTP effluent, accounting for 16% of the influent diclofenac concentration. The biotransformation of carriers was compared to a second WWTP not utilising carriers. It was found that in contact with activated sludge, similar hydroxylation and decarboxylation reactions occurred but at much slower rates, whereas some reactions, e.g. reductive dechlorination, were not detected at all. Finally, incubation experiments were performed with attached growth biomass from a third WWTP with a similar process configuration to Bad Ragaz WWTP. A similarly effective removal of diclofenac was found with a similar presence of TPs.

Concepts: Water pollution, Sewage treatment, Sewage, Wastewater, Industrial wastewater treatment, Sewerage, Environmental engineering, Reductive dechlorination