U.S. Geological Survey
William Battaglin (PI) is a research hydrologist at the USGS Colorado Water Science Center. His research often involves the use of geographic information systems and statistics as tools of investigation. His recent research includes: investigations of the occurrence of pharmaceuticals and pesticides in streams and lakes in National Parks, the effects of pesticides on amphibian populations in North America, the influence of emerging contaminants on Asian carp spawning in the Illinois River, and the potential impacts of climate change on National Parks.
Dramatic reductions in contaminant concentrations and bioactivity in the Colorado River after replacement of the Moab, Utah wastewater treatment plant in 2018
Long-term (2010-19) collaborative (US Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], National Park Service [NPS], U.S. Geological Survey [USGS]) water-quality monitoring on the Colorado River 15 miles downstream from Moab, Utah indicated the persistent presence of Bioactive Chemicals (BCs), such as pesticides (e.g., 2,4-D) and pharmaceuticals (e.g., metformin), that are synthesized to have biological effects. This stream reach near Canyonlands National Park provides critical habitat for federally endangered species (e.g. humpback chub). The Moab wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) discharges to the Colorado River and is the nearest point-source upstream from this reach. The original WWTP, built in the 1950s, was replaced in 2018 with a new plant that has greater capacity and additional treatment technologies such as biological. The new plant was designed to handle the increase of influent associated with increasing tourism, improve water quality, and meet nutrient permit limits. In 2016-19, a study was conducted to determine if the new plant reduced BC loading to the Colorado River at and downstream from the outfall. Water samples were collected before and after the plant replacement at sites upstream and downstream from the outfall. Samples were analyzed for 8 nutrients, 20 hormones, 20 metals, 113 pharmaceuticals, 223 pesticides, and 67 other BCs. The new plant dramatically reduced concentrations of nutrients, hormones, and other BCs entering the Colorado River. For example, at the WWTP outfall, ammonia concentrations averaged 24.1 milligrams per liter (mg/L) before the replacement and 0.18 mg/L after the replacement, estriol concentrations averaged 61.7 nanograms per liter (ng/L) before the replacement and <2 ng/L after, and metformin concentrations averaged 57,500 ng/L before the replacement and 1,030 ng/L after. It appears that WWTP upgrades such as biological treatment can reduce concentrations of nutrient and many other BCs in discharges to surface water.