Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 993–1004 | Cite as

Pharmaceuticals and organochlorine pesticides in sediments of an urban river in Florida, USA

  • Yun-Ya Yang
  • Gurpal S. ToorEmail author
  • Clinton F. Williams
Sediments, Sec 1 • Sediment Quality and Impact Assessment • Research Article



Sediments from a rural to urban gradient along the Alafia River in Florida, USA, were collected to determine the risk of environmental contamination with legacy (organochlorine pesticides (OCPs)) and new contaminants (pharmaceuticals).

Materials and methods

Bed sediments (0–10 cm) collected from rural and urban sub-basins of the Alafia River were analyzed for OCPs and pharmaceuticals using standard gas chromatography and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques.

Results and discussion

Three most frequently detected pharmaceuticals in sediments were carbamazepine (100 % of samples), trimethoprim (89 % of samples), and pseudoephedrine (63 % of samples). While acetaminophen, diphenhydramine, lidocaine, and nicotine were detected in <30 % of samples. The detection of caffeine in all sediment samples suggests that domestic wastewater from wastewater treatment plants and/or septic systems may be a contributing source at all the sites. Among the OCPs, endosulfan I was most frequently detected (37 % of samples), followed by δ-hexachlorocyclohexane (15 % of samples), γ-chlordane and endosulfan II (both in 11 % of samples), and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene and methoxychlor (both in 7 % of samples). The lower concentrations of OCPs (sum 0–16.1 ng g−1) than pharmaceuticals (sum 0.5–61.9 ng g−1) in sediments are probably due to the historic use of OCPs since these were banned for use in the USA in the 1970s, while pharmaceuticals are still used.


The variability in detection and concentrations of legacy and new compounds in rural and urban stream sediments is likely due to the different magnitude of input sources, site characteristics, and chemical properties of individual compounds. Significant positive correlations between OCPs and sediment properties (organic matter, silt, and clay) suggest that sediments are a major sink of various contaminants in the Alafia River. We conclude that the concentrations of both pharmaceuticals and OCPs in sediments of this urban river are relatively lower than existing literature; however, these can still be of environmental concern to aquatic organisms.


Organochlorine pesticides Pharmaceuticals River sediments Urbanizing watershed 



We thank former chemist, Butch Bradlay, for analysis of OCPs and MS student, Stefan Kalev, for his assistance in creating a GIS map of study sites. This project was supported by Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences of University of Florida and National Integrated Water Quality Grant Program no. 2011-51130-31173 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yun-Ya Yang
    • 1
  • Gurpal S. Toor
    • 1
    Email author
  • Clinton F. Williams
    • 2
  1. 1.Soil and Water Quality Laboratory, Gulf Coast Research and Education CenterUniversity of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural SciencesWimaumaUSA
  2. 2.USDA-ARS, US Arid Land Agricultural Research CenterMaricopaUSA

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