Wastewater sources of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) and pharmaceuticals in four Canadian Arctic communities

By Kevin M Stroski, Kim Hoang Luong, Jonathan K Challis, Luis G Chaves-Barquero, Mark L Hanson, and Charles S Wong
Sci. Total Environ.
December 4, 2019
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.134494

Effective removal of organic contaminants in wastewater effluent poses a challenge to small communities worldwide, particularly in the Arctic due to infrastructure challenges and harsh climates. To understand better the efficacy of current treatment options and risks posed by pharmaceuticals and pesticides on receiving waters in the Arctic, four representative human communities in Nunavut, Canada were evaluated. Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) were also investigated in one community. These communities have treatment ranging from primary lagoons, engineered wetlands, and natural lakes. Pharmaceuticals and pesticides were measured using the organic diffusive gradients in thin film (o-DGT) passive sampler in summer 2018. Of the 34 compounds studied, seven pharmaceuticals were found at least once: atenolol, carbamazepine, metoprolol, naproxen, sulfapyridine, sulfamethoxazole, and trimethoprim. With the exception of 5210 ng naproxen/L in Iqaluit, most receiving waters showed negligible amounts of contamination. Iqaluit had the poorest overall system performance while Baker Lake had the best. Measured pharmaceutical concentrations do not appear to pose a significant acute hazard to receiving waters at this time, based on known toxicological endpoints. PFAS concentrations were found to be over 100-fold greater in Cambridge Bay wastewater than previously reported Arctic seawater. Results suggest that wastewater may be an important point source of PFASs in Arctic communities. The o-DGT passive samplers performed well in marine Arctic settings. We recommend further testing of wastewater efficiencies in Arctic communities along with evaluations of seasonal variations.

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