Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) continue to be an emerging concern for not only life in aquatic ecosystems, but for the safety of our drinking water as more PPCPs travel into our water ways. One of the key concerns: We often don’t know how much is in the water or how effective current water and wastewater treatment procedures are for removing common chemicals like ibuprofen and insect repellent DEET.
But newly Sea Grant-funded research by Kent State University’s Dr. Xiaozhen Mou is looking at a way to measure the most common PPCPs in Ohio waters and see to what extent treatment plants are removing them.
“Right now PPCP monitoring isn’t mandatory by federal or state regulations, so we don’t know exactly how many or how much PPCPs are going into our waterways,” said Mou. “This research project will quantify PPCP compounds and evaluate how effective different treatment processes are to eliminating them.”
Mou, along with Dr. Laura Leff of Kent State, plans to collect water samples from five drinking water treatment plants and one wastewater treatment plant in Northeast Ohio. Together they will look for 13 of the most common PPCPs—from acetaminophen and antibiotic sulfamethoxazole to caffeine and estrone—and determine the chemicals’ levels from water coming into each treatment plant and compare those levels to water samples leaving the treatment plants.
“We want to see how efficient existing processes like biological filtration in drinking water plants are to removing PPCPs and then how much PPCP contamination actually goes in to natural environments by way of treated wastewater,” said Mou.
With those numbers in hand, Mou’s next step will be to test if an innovative approach using antibiotics-resisting genes within bacteria could potentially predict antibiotic levels in drinking water samples.
If successful, they would create a more sensitive and cheaper way to detect antibiotics in water samples.
“Our hope is this project will fill a knowledge gap that we currently have by quantifying the most prevalent PPCPs, evaluating the efficiency of current treatment processes and hopefully use a genetic tool to develop fast and potentially inexpensive way to measure PPCP levels,” concluded Mou.
For more about this Ohio Sea Grant-funded project, contact Dr. Mou at email@example.com.
As aquaculture strives to be a fast growing source of food production in Ohio, so increases the need to find ways to fight fish diseases that could impair its growth.
New Sea Grant research by Dr. Vipaporn Phuntumart of Bowling Green State University is looking at a way to apply a molecular technique to detect Saprolengia spp., a cold-loving, prevalent fungal-like fish disease that can wipe out 10 percent of a fish farm.
The pathogen the disease Saprolegniasis generates is a deadly one that kills both fish and their eggs and is sparked by colder weather. “When a cold-front comes in, the immune system of fish drops, and the pathogen thrives and kills,” said Phuntumart. With colder temperatures and more frequent snows, areas in Ohio where many aquaculture farms are located are more susceptible to incidences of Saprolengia-induced winter kills.
Using a technique that has up until now only been used on soil-borne plant pathogens, Phuntumart plans to test water infected by Saprolengia and see if she can detect and quantify the waterborne pathogen.
The end result could be a new, innovative technique that would determine pathogen levels within 5-10 minutes right at the fish farm and would allow the farmer to test with an inexpensive spectrophotometer.
“We want something that the aquaculture industry can apply instantly as a protocol,” emphasized Phuntumart. “An immediate, simple $2.00 test that will identify the disease.”
Determining how much of the pathogen the water has, however, is only one of Phuntumart’s objectives; finding an environmentally friendly way to eliminate the deadly pathogen from the water is the other.
Phuntumart is planning to see if peracetric acid (PAA), an organic chemical widely used as a disinfectant, can treat Saprolengia-infected water. If found effective as a Saprolengia control, this environmentally friendly chemical would safely break down into vinegar, oxygen and water.
“Our goal for this project is that a fish farmer can take a simple test the moment he sees a cold-front coming in,” said Phuntumart. “And within 10 minutes, if that Saprolegnia pathogen level is up in the water, the farmer can quickly treat the water with PAA and the fish population is fine.”
For more about this Ohio Sea Grant-funded project, contact Dr. Phuntumart at firstname.lastname@example.org.