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

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Water Research





First page number:


Last page number:



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.


Endocrine disrupting chemicals in water; Drinking water – Drug content; Endocrine disrupting compound (EDC); Illicit drug; Loading; Organic water pollutants; Pharmaceutical; Reuse; Sewage – Treatment; Temporal variation; Wastewater; Water reuse


Environmental Engineering | Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Sciences | Medicine and Health | Urban Studies and Planning | Water Resource Management




Use Find in Your Library, contact the author, or use interlibrary loan to garner a copy of the article. Publisher copyright policy allows author to archive post-print (author’s final manuscript). When post-print is available or publisher policy changes, the article will be deposited

Publisher Citation

Daniel Gerrity, Rebecca A. Trenholm, Shane A. Snyder, Temporal variability of pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs in wastewater and the effects of a major sporting event, Water Research, Volume 45, Issue 17, 1 November 2011, Pages 5399-5411, ISSN 0043-1354, 10.1016/j.watres.2011.07.020.

UNLV article access

Search your library