Temporal variability of pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs in wastewater and the effects of a major sporting event

Daniel Gerrity, Rebecca A. Trenholm, Shane A. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Diurnal variations in wastewater flows are common phenomena related to peak water use periods. However, few studies have examined high-resolution temporal variability in trace organic contaminant (TOrC) concentrations and loadings. Even fewer have assessed the impacts of a special event or holiday. This study characterizes the temporal variability associated with a major sporting event using flow data and corresponding mass loadings of a suite of prescription pharmaceuticals, potential endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), and illicit drugs. Wastewater influent and finished effluent samples were collected during the National Football League's Super Bowl, which is a significant weekend for tourism in the study area. Data from a baseline weekend is also provided to illustrate flows and TOrC loadings during " normal" operational conditions. Some compounds exhibited interesting temporal variations (e.g., atenolol), and several compounds demonstrated different loading profiles during the Super Bowl and baseline weekends (e.g., the primary cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine). Interestingly, the influent mass loadings of prescription pharmaceuticals were generally similar in magnitude to those of the illicit drugs and their metabolites. However, conventional wastewater treatment was more effective in removing the illicit drugs and their metabolites. Total influent and effluent mass loadings are also provided to summarize treatment efficacy and environmental discharges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5399-5411
Number of pages13
JournalWater research
Issue number17
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011


  • Endocrine disrupting compound (EDC)
  • Illicit drug
  • Loading
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Reuse
  • Temporal variation
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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