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Soil filters out some contaminants before reaching ground water, research suggests

August 10, 2017  By Colleen Cross

State College, PA – A recent Pennsylvania State University study of compounds from pharmaceuticals and personal care products provides insight into the transport of emerging contaminants in aquatic ecosystems and ground water, according to researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

The research, which was conducted at the Penn State Wastewater Treatment plant and the University’s Living Filter, analyzed the fate of seven emerging contaminants: acetaminophen, ampicillin, caffeine, naproxen, ofloxacin, sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim, the university said in a news release.

The study’s goal was to track these compounds through the wastewater treatment plant and ultimately to the wells at the Living Filter to assess the removal efficiency of the plant and the ability of the filter’s soil profile to provide further treatment of the compounds that persisted in the effluent.


“The study was unique in that it provided a snapshot of soil acting as a biogeochemical filter to remove some emerging contaminants,” said Heather Gall, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering, who presented the findings July 18 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, in Spokane, Wash.

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