The Impact of Anthropogenic Discharges on Endocrine Disruption in the Potomac River Watershed


  • Erik Rosenfeldt - Hazen and Sawyer

The Potomac River serves as the primary drinking water source for more than 4 million people in the Washington Metropolitan Area (WMA) of Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia. The river also serves as an important spawning and nursery ground for migratory and resident fish species and contributes approximately 20% of the total streamflow to the ecologically sensitive Chesapeake Bay (Ahmed et al., 2010). Nutrient and endocrine disrupting compound (EDC) discharge into watersheds has been identified as major issues that will continue to negatively impact the health of the Potomac River watershed. While municipal wastewater treatment facilities (WWTPs) have been implicated as contributors of these contaminants, it is known that non-point sources (e.g. agricultural runoff or urban/suburban runoff) dominate surface discharges in the Potomac River watershed and that EDCs can be discharged from these non-point sources. If the desired goal is to minimize the impacts of EDCs on the Potomac River, there is a critical need to accurately quantify the relative input of each discharge on the overall endocrine disruption in the Potomac River watershed.

De-convoluting the complex set of EDC inputs to the Potomac River watershed presents a difficult task. To address this task, DC Water and Hazen and Sawyer have assembled a collaborative team of regional experts to combine geochemical markers, advanced effluent/natural organic material characterization methods, advanced analytical chemistry methods and EDC toxicological profiling to help resolve impacts from WWTP discharges relative to urban runoff and agricultural inputs. The two objectives of the study are to:

  • Evaluate the upstream and downstream impacts from ‘best-in-class’ nutrient control, agriculture management, stormwater management and wastewater treatment strategies
  • Assess the relative contribution of EDCs from the above sources, evaluating the impact on the Potomac as a Resource and a Drinking Water Supply.

Project planning and kickoff occurred in the 4th quarter 2014, and an intensive sampling campaign began in the first quarter, 2015. Utilizing methods developed in the Water Research Foundation Project 4260: “EDC/PPCP Benchmarking and Monitoring Strategies for Drinking Water Utilities”, the project team was able to apply land use information and determine potential “hot spots” for impact analysis, and determine the appropriate resolution in sampling frequency in order to ensure accurate information regarding representative levels of these contaminants are assessed. A significant portion of data collection efforts and preliminary analysis will be performed prior to November, 2015, and this presentation will provide an opportunity to update the Drinking Water Community on preliminary results of the important study, providing a blueprint for utilities faced with similar questions to address the issues in their watersheds.

For more information, please contact the author at

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