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Emerging organic contaminants in shallow groundwater underlying two contrasting peri-urban areas in Uganda


This study investigated the occurrence and seasonal variation in concentrations of emerging organic contaminants (EOCs) in shallow groundwater underlying two peri-urban areas of Bwaise (highly urbanised) and Wobulenzi (moderately urbanised) in Uganda. Twenty-six antibiotics, 20 hydrocarbons, including 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and 59 pesticides were investigated. Ampicillin and benzylpenicillin were the most frequently detected antibiotics in both areas, although at low concentrations to cause direct harm to human health, but could lead to a proliferation of antibiotic resistance genes. The most frequently detected hydrocarbons in Bwaise were naphthalene and xylene while anthracene and fluoranthene were the most frequent in Wobulenzi, also at low concentrations for ecological impact at long-term exposure. Molecular diagnostic ratios indicated pyrogenic and pyrolytic sources of PAHs in both areas. Cypermethrin (for vermin control) was the most frequent pesticide in Bwaise while metalaxyl (attributed to agriculture) was the most frequent in Wobulenzi. Banned organochlorines (8) were also detected in both areas in low concentrations. The pesticide concentrations between the two areas significantly differed (Z = − 3.558; p < 0.01), attributed to contrasting land-use characteristics. In Wobulenzi (wet season), the total pesticide concentrations at all the locations exceeded the European Community parametric guideline value while 75% of the detected compounds exceeded the individual pesticide guideline value. Thus, the antibiotic and pesticide residues in shallow groundwater underlying both Bwaise and Wobulenzi pose potential adverse ecological effects at long-term exposure. Monitoring of EOCs in both highly and moderately urbanised catchments should be strengthened towards mitigating associated risks.

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Source: Uganda National Meteorological Authority, Kampala)

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This study was funded under the T-GroUP project. T-GroUP was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and the Natural and Environment Research Council (NERC) under the UPGro Programme, NERC grant number NE/M008045/1.

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All authors contributed to the conceptualisation and design of the study. Felix Twinomucunguzi, Philip Nyenje and Swaib Semiyaga collected the samples, performed the experiments and analysed the data. Felix Twinomucunguzi wrote the draft manuscript, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors reviewed and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Felix R. B. Twinomucunguzi.

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Twinomucunguzi, F.R.B., Nyenje, P.M., Kulabako, R.N. et al. Emerging organic contaminants in shallow groundwater underlying two contrasting peri-urban areas in Uganda. Environ Monit Assess 193, 228 (2021).

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