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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Estrogenic Activity in the Environment: Municipal Wastewater Effluent, River, Ponds and Wetlands.

Author
item Shappell, Nancy

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Quality
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 31, 2005
Publication Date: January 1, 2006
Citation: Shappell, N.W. 2006. Estrogenic activity in the environment: municipal wastewater effluent, river, ponds and wetlands. Journal of Environmental Quality 35:122-132.

Interpretive Summary: In response to concerns raised about estrogenic activity and potential endocrine disruption from our water supplies, the estrogenic activity of regional water samples were evaluated. Samples obtained from wetlands and ponds involved in various agricultural land uses; from three river sites over four seasons; and from storage lagoons containing "gray water" or municipal sewage wastewater post-treatment were evaluated. Water samples were analyzed using a human cell system in which the amount of cell growth is proportional to the presence of an estrogenic substance. The estrogenic hormone estradiol was used as a standard to compare cell growth. Activity of all samples were very low (parts per trillion), with samples from the Red River being among the lowest. River water downstream from the two municipal wastewater treatment release sites tended to have the highest activity. Red River samples collected in the winter had the highest activity, most likely because the river flow is decreased in the winter. The activity in seven of 20 wetland / pond sites and five of 12 river samples were lower than the quantifiable by the assay. There was no difference in estrogenic activity in the wetlands and ponds depending on land use. Activity of "gray water" held in storage lagoons decreased with time, and in one lagoon the activity was reduced by ½ in eight days. The decrease in activity was likely due to settling of sediments in addition to chemical degradation. The estrogenic activity of most regional water samples were more than 1000 fold less than those impacted by animal wastes.

Technical Abstract: In response to concerns raised about estrogenic activity and potential endocrine disruption from our water supplies, the estrogenic activity of regional water samples were evaluated. Samples obtained from wetlands and ponds involved in various agricultural land uses; from three river sites over four seasons; and from municipal wastewater effluent held in storage lagoons were evaluated. The estrogen-responsive cell line MCF-7 BOS was used in the E-screen assay to determine 17 beta-estradiol equivalents (E2 Eq) of water samples extracted by solid-phase extraction (Oasis HLB®). Estrogenic activity in surrounding wetlands and ponds from different land uses were not different, with less than or equal to 10 -12M E2 Eq (0.3 parts per trillion). Estrogenic activity of Red River samples were within the same range as wetland/pond samples. The highest sample was found downstream from municipal wastewater treatment effluent release sites, in winter when river flow was lowest (~ 6 X 10 -13M E2 Eq). Seven of 20 wetland/pond samples and 5 of 12 river samples were below the limits of quantitation (~3 X 10 -14M E2 Eq). Toxicity was found in fall and summer river samples upstream from municipal wastewater release sites. The timing of toxicity did not coincide to the presence of elevated fecal coliforms. Estrogenic activity in wastewater effluent from lagoons decreased over time (~25 to 5 X 10 -13M E2 Eq) with an apparent T 1/2 of 8 days for one lagoon. The estrogenic activity of most regional water samples were more than 1000 fold less than those impacted by animal wastes.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
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