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Tracking the Presence and Persistence of Pharmaceuticals in Cape Cod Bay

Funding for this project was provided by MassBays to Center for Coastal Studies (2012)

About the project

Pharmaceutically Active Compounds (PhACs) including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, household cleansers and detergents, are a source of manmade contaminants introduced into the environment mainly through the discharge of wastewater. The Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA examined the levels of PhACs in Cape Cod Bay and selected embayments draining into it. Factors influencing the presence and concentration of these contaminants such as the number of septic systems and wastewater treatment facilities, proximity of potential sources to monitoring stations, and groundwater flow rate, were examined in conjunction with water quality data.

Fifty-three percent of the samples tested were contaminated with at least one four of the five PhACs tested during this study. Because humans are the only source of these contaminants, the data are a clear indication of impacts on coastal waters by wastewater, contaminated groundwater, and other anthropogenic sources. Results also showed a correlation with the degree of human use and correspondingly with wastewater as a key source of nitrogen to the coastal waters of Cape Cod. Addressing wastewater concerns related to nutrients should also lessen the potential impacts of PhACs. This study has set the groundwork for future monitoring of PhACs which will reveal additional information to evaluate potential sources or transport pathways, a critical part of water quality research on Cape Cod.

Details of the study together with results and next steps are outlined in detail in the final report. Tracking the Presence and Persistence of Pharmaceuticals in Cape Cod Bay. Center for Coastal Studies. 2012. 

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