Journal of environmental quality

Soil persistence and fate of carbamazepine, lincomycin, caffeine, and ibuprofen from wastewater reuse.

PMID 23099938


The reuse of treated wastewater for groundwater recharge is an effective way to provide advanced treatment and water storage. Contaminants such as human drugs have been identified as a potential problem for use of this water. Gilbert, Arizona maintains a 28.3-ha facility designed to recharge 15,150 m d through recharge basins constructed on native soil. The facility averages an infiltration rate of >5 cm d, resulting in the potential of pharmaceutical compounds leaching to groundwater. One 4-ha basin was selected for spatial sampling of four pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs). The compounds were carbamazepine, lincomycin, ibuprofen, and caffeine. Soils were extracted and analyzed using pressurized liquid extraction and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry-mass spectrometry. The concentration of ibuprofen was below detection limits in all samples. Lincomycin exhibited no net accumulation from year to year but had significantly higher concentrations from depths of 0 to 5 cm than from depths >10 cm. Carbamazepine had the lowest concentration at 0 to 5 cm (0.18 ng g soil), providing evidence that there is potential degradation of carbamazepine in surface soils. Carbamazepine also exhibited significant accumulation from year to year. Caffeine exhibited net accumulation and had higher concentrations in surface samples. The accumulation of PhACs in the soil beneath recharge basins indicates that PhACs are being removed from the infiltrating water and that, regarding ibuprofen and lincomycin, the treatment is sustainable due to the lack of accumulation. Regarding carbamazepine and caffeine, further investigations are needed to determine possible management and environmental conditions that could prevent accumulation.