Emerging Contaminants Summit

Spring 2020

William Foreman
Research Chemist
US Geological Survey

Bill Foreman is a Research Chemist in the Methods Research and Development Program of the US Geological Survey's National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) in Denver, CO. His expertise is in environmental analytical organic chemistry. Bill's research career of 35 years has focused on the development and application of new analytical methods for investigating the transport and fate of pesticides and their degradates, PAHs, and other trace organic contaminants of emerging concern (e.g., natural and synthetic hormones) in aquatic, atmospheric, and biotic matrices using primarily gas chromatography with mass spectrometry (MS, MS/MS) and, very recently, liquid chromatography with quadrupole time of flight MS. He has developed or co-developed methods used extensively by the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Project and Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, and collaborated on numerous projects with USGS, USEPA, NOAA and academic colleagues resulting in 93 publications. Bill also has expertise in detection and data-quality issues. He is a member of the American Chemical Society and Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. He earned a BS in Chemistry from U. of South Florida and Ph. D. in Analytical Chemistry from U. of South Carolina. He was a Visiting Research Fellow at the U. of Colorado prior to joining the USGS NWQL in 1987. 



Ethynylestradiol in Wastewater Influent, Effluent, and U.S. Streams (2011-2016)

The synthetic steroid hormone, 17alpha-ethynylestradiol (EE2), has been used in birth control pills in the United States (US) for more than 50 years. EE2 often is used as the primary active estrogenic component in many formulations of combined oral contraceptives or contraceptive patches, which typically also include a progestin. EE2 has other less common pharmaceutical applications. EE2 is eliminated from the body in both feces and urine. As such, waste-water treatment plants (WWTPs) are expected to be important source inputs of EE2 to streams and other water resources, either from direct effluent discharge or from rain or irrigation-induced run-off following the application of WWTP biosolids to agricultural fields. EE2 is recognized as a potent estrogen and, thus, a possible important chemical contaminant to consider with respect to endocrine disruption for aquatic species exposed to effluent discharges and biosolids runoff.  In a variety of water-quality studies conducted from 2011-2016, the US Geological Survey collected more than 170 influent or effluent samples from WWTPs, and more than 1300 water samples from streams across the US, many of which receive direct discharges from WWTPs or indirect discharges from septic systems. Non-conjugated steroid hormones, including EE2 and estrone, were isolated from filtered or unfiltered water using solid-phase extraction. Extracts were cleaned-up with Florisil SPE, and method compounds were derivatized to trimethylsilyl analogs and analyzed by GC/MSMS using isotope dilution quantification (including EE2-d4). EE2 was detected in <6% of either WWTP influent or effluent samples (reporting level 0.8 ng/L) and ranged up to about 4 ng/L, with most detections below 1 ng/L. Detections of EE2 were rare (<0.3%) in stream-water samples, with concentrations <2 ng/L. By contrast, although estrone has less estrogenic potency than EE2, it was nearly ubiquitous in WWTP influent/effluent samples, and commonly was detected in river samples that receive WWTP discharges. The EE2 concentrations observed from the large number of both stream and WWTP samples collected from many sites across the US in 2011-2016 are much lower than those previously reported (73 ng/L median, 831 ng/L maximum) for a smaller (N=70) reconnaissance study conducted in 1999-2000 by the USGS that included samples impacted by livestock production and used a different GC/MS method (Kolpin and others, 2002, http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es011055j).

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