Assessing the sources, quantities, and trends on human waste contamination along protected south Florida ecosystem: A chemical tracer based study

Simrat Pal Singh, Florida International University


The common occurrence of human derived contaminants like pharmaceuticals, steroids and hormones in surface waters has raised the awareness of the role played by the release of treated or untreated sewage in the water quality along sensitive coastal ecosystems. South Florida is home to many important protected environments ranging from wetlands to coral reefs which are in close proximity to large metropolitan cities. Since large portions of South Florida and most of the Florida Keys population are not served by modern sewage treatment plants and rely heavily on the use of inefficient septic systems; a comprehensive survey of selected human waste contamination markers is needed in these areas to assess water quality with respect to non-traditional micro-constituents. This study reports the development and application of new sensitive and selective analytical methods for the fast screening of multiple wastewater tracers, classified as Emergent Pollutants of Concern (EPOC). Novel methods for the trace analysis of non-traditional markers of human-specific contamination such as aminopropanone were developed and used to assess the potential of non-traditional markers as wastewater tracers. During our investigation, surface water samples collected from near shore environments along the South Florida were analyzed for fifteen hormones and steroids, and five commonly detected pharmaceuticals. The compounds most frequently detected were: coprostanol, cholesterol, estrone, β-estradiol, caffeine, triclosan and DEET. Concentrations of caffeine, bisphenol A and DEET were usually higher and more prevalent than the hormonal steroids. In general, it was found that common pharmaceuticals and steroids are widely present in major coastal environments in South Florida. It is also evident that aquatic bodies in heavily urbanized sectors such as the Miami River and Key Largo Harbor contain higher concentrations of several compounds while relatively open bay waters and agricultural areas show reduced chemical signatures. Concentrations of hormones in the Little Venice area of Marathon Key were above the Lowest Observable Effect Levels (LOELs) for several species, indicating that biological resources in this area are at risk. Water quality issues in some of these coastal water environments go beyond eutrophication, thus EPOC should be the target goal for future mitigation projects.

Subject Area

Analytical chemistry|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Singh, Simrat Pal, "Assessing the sources, quantities, and trends on human waste contamination along protected south Florida ecosystem: A chemical tracer based study" (2006). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3235619.