Impacts of Anthropogenic EDCS and the Role of Reuse and Conservation on the Quality of the Potomac

Last Modified: Nov 08, 2018


  • 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, and 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. 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. 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 both point and non-point discharges on the overall impact of emerging contaminants in the Potomac River watershed, and to assess the impact of management practices, including reuse and conservation measures, for improving the situation.

The project is currently 3.5 years into what has turned into a 5 year comprehensive evaluation. The first phase, focused on de-convoluting the complex set of EDC inputs to the Potomac River watershed. Seven sampling events (bi-monthly and one in the aftermath of a large rain event) were undertaken during 2015 and into 2016. Results included observations of variability in EDCs and estrogenic activity, nutrients, and other water quality parameters throughout the year. Best Management Practices (BMPs) in agricultural and urban stormwater management showed significant improvement in levels of EDCs, estrogenic activity, and other indicators. Advanced source tracking tools such as nutrient isotope fingerprinting and fluorescence TOC characterization were used to develop correlations between land-use, levels of contaminants, and degrees of co-management of pollutants.

The second phase of the project aims to elucidate the impact of advanced wastewater reclamation, large scale stormwater harvesting and reuse, and focused agricultural stormwater best management practices on impact to ecological and human health in the Potomac. The novel approach undertaken in this research combines a suite of state-of-the-art techniques to actively identify contaminant hot spots (EDCs and related biological activity, emerging contaminants, and nutrients), assess the impact of those hot spots on human and ecological health endpoints, and quantify the impact of reuse and management solutions on these endpoints. Further, this project will compare the findings from both planned and unplanned reuse systems in order to quantify relative impacts between the two types of systems. This approach will ultimately provide a tool for decision makers to assign a priority order to managing sources at locations and implementing water reuse and management practices on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, and are most likely to achieve success.

This presentation will provide an update of this project, providing Phase 1 results, and update of preliminary Phase 2 project observations to date, and an update on the status of the groundbreaking research program.

For more information, please contact the author at

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