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Open-File Report 2009-1046

Prepared in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Occurrence of Selected Pharmaceutical and Organic Wastewater Compounds in Effluent and Water Samples from Municipal Wastewater and Drinking-Water Treatment Facilities in the Tar and Cape Fear River Basins, North Carolina, 2003–2005

By G.M. Ferrell


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Samples of treated effluent and treated and untreated water were collected at 20 municipal wastewater and drinkingwater treatment facilities in the Tar and Cape Fear River basins of North Carolina during 2003 and 2005. The samples were analyzed for a variety of prescription and nonprescription pharmaceutical compounds and a suite of organic compounds considered indicative of wastewater. Concentrations of these compounds generally were less than or near the detection limits of the analytical methods used during this investigation. None of these compounds were detected at concentrations that exceeded drinking-water standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Bromoform, a disinfection byproduct, was the only compound detected at a concentration that exceeded regulatory guidelines. The concentration of bromoform in one finished drinking-water sample, 26 micrograms per liter, exceeded North Carolina water-quality criteria. Drinking-water treatment practices were effective at removing many of the compounds detected in untreated water. Disinfection processes used in wastewater treatment—chlorination or irradiation with ultraviolet light—did not seem to substantially degrade the organic compounds evaluated during this study.

First posted April 14, 2009

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
3916 Sunset Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC 27607

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Suggested citation:

Ferrell, G.M., 2009, Occurrence of selected pharmaceutical and organic wastewater compounds in effluent and water samples from municipal wastewater and drinking-water treatment facilities in the Tar and Cape Fear River basins, North Carolina, 2003-2005: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1046, 45 p. (Available only online at




Purpose and Scope


Study Area

Study Design and Site Selection

Sample Collection and Analysis

Quality Assurance and Quality Control

Phase 1 Results

Treated Effluent Samples from Wastewater-Treatment Facilities

Raw Water Samples from Drinking-Water Treatment Facilities

Phase 2 Results

Effluent Samples Before and After Disinfection at Wastewater-Treatment Facilities

Drinking-Water Samples at Various Stages of Treatment


References Cited

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