Contaminants of Emerging Concern

Contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are chemicals that have entered the environment through human activities. They have been detected in humans or other living organisms and have been found to persist in the environment, but are not routinely monitored for and are currently unregulated. Examples include phthalates, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), brominated flame retardants (PBDEs), nanoparticles, and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs).

Although most of these compounds have been detected in surface waters at very low concentrations, there is concern about how CECs impact drinking water and the river's ecology. Increased interest in these substances and their toxic effects by scientists, the public, and regulators is occurring due to improved analytical methods and a growing body of information on the adverse effects of CECs. Therefore, it is important to understand their presence, sources, source pathways, persistence, fate, and how they degrade in surface water.

A number of efforts have been undertaken within the Delaware River Basin to identify, understand, and prioritize CECs, including work that the commission does with the basin states and the U.S. EPA to assess the main stem Delaware River. A three year effort by DRBC to investigate the presence and concentration of PPCPs, PFASs, and PBDEs in the ambient waters of the tidal Delaware River concluded in 2009; the report (revised in Aug. 2013) is linked below. The commission has an ongoing monitoring program for PFAS/PFC in the main stem Delaware River, examining surface water, fish tissue, and sediment.

In February 2013, DRBC and the Water and Environmental Technology (WET) Center at Temple University - a National Science Foundation Industry & University Cooperative Research Program (NSF I/UCRC) - received a grant to partner on a survey to study CECs in several southeastern Pennsylvania tributaries to the tidal Delaware River. Tributaries surveyed included the Neshaminy, Perkiomen, and Wissahickon creeks and the Schuylkill River, all of which have numerous municipal and industrial discharges to surface water. Ten sampling sites were surveyed, the chosen locations above and below potential source discharges for CECs. Funded by the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center and Pennsylvania Sea Grant, the survey began in March 2013 and was completed in March 2014. View sampling photos on Flickr.

Presentations and Reports

The below presentations and reports are by DRBC staff or given at DRBC advisory committee meetings.

Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Delaware River Basin (pdf 3.5 MB; presentation given at the Sept. 2014 DE-AWRA Roundtable Panel Discussion "Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in Water"

Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Tidal Delaware River: Pilot Monitoring Survey 2007-2009 (pdf 1.5 MB; revised August 2013) Data in this report are available in alternate formats (analytical laboratory package or electronic data summaries) upon request.

Perfluorinated Chemicals: Emerging Drinking Water Contaminants (pdf 5.3 MB) - Presented by Gloria Post, Ph.D., DABT, N.J. Dept. of Environmental Protection, at the June 5, 2013 Toxics Advisory Committee (TAC) Meeting

Presentation on Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Tidal Delaware River: Pilot Monitoring Survey 2007-2009 (Delaware River Basin Source Water Collaborative Webinar - Sept. 2012) (pdf 3.9 MB)

Emerging Contaminants in the Delaware Estuary (pdf 2 MB; presentation given at the 2011 Partnership for the Delaware Estuary's Science and Environmental Summit)

PPCPs at a Point Source (Publicly Owned Treatment Works) Discharge Before and After Tertiary Disinfection by Chlorination (pdf 2 MB; presentation given at the Nov. 2010 SETAC North America Annual Meeting)

Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Delaware River Estuary (pdf 2 MB; presentation given at Feb. 2010 National Estuary Program Meeting)

PFCs in Fish Tissue in the Delaware River (pdf 1.4 MB; presentation given at Nov. 2009 National Forum on Contaminants in Fish)

Emerging Contaminants of Concern in the Delaware River Basin: Vulnerability Assessment Preliminary Report (pdf 322 KB; Feb. 2007)

Government Informational Links

Delaware Health and Social Services' Division of Public Health: Prescription Drug Disposal Information

New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs: Project Medicine Drop

New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation: Household Drug Collection Schedule

Pennsylvania Dept. of Drug and Alcohol Programs: Healthy Pennsylvania - Prescription Drug Take-Back Program

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Contaminants of Emerging Concern including Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: How to Dispose of Unused Medicine

U.S. Geological Survey: Emerging Contaminants in the Environment

National Drug Take-Back/Disposal Information

AWARxE Prescription Drug Safety Program Disposal Site Locator Tool

Dispose My Meds Pharmacy Locator

Product Stewardship Institute's Go-to-Guide for Safe Drug Take-Back