Submitted to: Ecological Society of America Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/7/2013
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Background/Question/Methods As the scientific and regulatory communities realize the significant environmental impacts and ubiquity of “contaminants of emerging concern” (CECs), it is increasingly imperative to develop quantitative assessment tools to evaluate and predict the fate and transport of these anthropogenic chemicals. CECs are a diverse group of micropollutants derived from pharmaceuticals, hormones, personal care products, pesticides, nanomaterials, surfactants, flame retardants, and industrial chemicals. Point and non-point sources of CECs include wastewater effluent and stormwater discharges; manure and municipal biosolids applications; and surface run-off, overflows, or seepage from sewers, septic tanks, and concentrated animal feeding operation lagoons. Tools developed to predict fate and transport of historically studied industrial chemicals are applicable to some CECs but inappropriate for others. Our team of scientists with expertise in process-based modeling, chemical engineering, agricultural and civil engineering, water quality, and aquatic toxicology, collected empirical data and developed conceptual approaches for modeling diverse CECs (including selected herbicides/pesticides, veterinary pharmaceuticals chlortetracycline and tylosin from swine-manure amended fields, organic wastewater contaminants, and trace elements) from various sources. We further explored the potential for applying the existing Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) as a platform to model the fate and transport of CECs in both urban- and agriculturally-impacted watersheds. Results/Conclusions Relatively limited information is available regarding CEC environmental occurrence, fate, effects, and risks posed to ecological and human health. The SWAT model is proven to reasonably simulate landscape and in-stream transport of sediments and nutrients across numerous environments. SWAT is also configured to simulate transport of some pesticides, including atrazine. Simulations of selected organic wastewater contaminants and veterinary pharmaceuticals using SWAT’s pesticide module approximated empirical results for some CECs but not others. Our findings are contributing to SWAT model development, including modification of parameters to better reflect point and non-point source inputs and revision of algorithms to improve surface transport, soil physical and chemical reactions, and biological uptake and transformation processes. Because the reactive and transport properties of trace elements differ from other CECs, an additional module for modeling trace elements is also under development. The current and future diversity of physicochemical and biological properties represented by CECs and the broad adaptability of the SWAT model present both opportunities and challenges to be met by the research and regulatory communities.