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Municipal wastewater has not been extensively examined as a pathway by which pesticides contaminate surface water, particularly relative to the well-recognized pathways of agricultural and urban runoff. A state-of-the-science review of the occurrence and fate of current-use pesticides in wastewater, both before and after treatment, indicates this pathway is significant and should not be overlooked. A comprehensive conceptual model is presented to establish all relevant pesticide-use patterns with the potential for both direct and indirect down-the-drain transport. Review of available studies from the United States indicates 42 pesticides in current use. While pesticides and pesticide degradates have been identified in wastewater, many more have never been examined in this matrix. Conventional wastewater treatment technologies are generally ineffective at removing pesticides from wastewater, with high removal efficiency only observed in the case of highly hydrophobic compounds, such as pyrethroids. Aquatic life reference values can be exceeded in undiluted effluents. For example, seven compounds, including three pyrethroids, carbaryl, fipronil and its sulfone degradate, and imidacloprid, were detected in treated wastewater effluent at levels exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) aquatic life benchmarks for chronic exposure to invertebrates. Pesticides passing through wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) merit prioritization for additional study to identify sources and appropriate pollution-prevention strategies. Two case studies, diazinon and chlorpyrifos in household pesticide products, and fipronil and imidacloprid in pet flea control products, highlight the importance of identifying neglected sources of environmental contamination via the wastewater pathway. Additional monitoring and modeling studies are needed to inform source control and prevention of undesirable alternative solutions.
Urban pest control insecticides, specifically fipronil and its four major degradates (fipronil sulfone, sulfide, desulfinyl, and amide) and imidacloprid, were monitored during drought conditions in eight San Francisco Bay wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). In influent and effluent, ubiquitous detections were obtained in units of ng/L for fipronil (13-88), fipronil sulfone (1-28), fipronil sulfide (1-5) and imidacloprid (58-306). In influent, 100% of imidacloprid and 62 ± 9% of total fiproles (fipronil and degradates) were present in the dissolved state, with the balance being bound to filter-removable particulates. Targeted insecticides persisted during wastewater treatment, regardless of treatment technology utilized (imidacloprid: 93 ± 17%; total fiproles: 65 ± 11%), with partitioning into sludge (3.7-151.1 μg/kg dry weight as fipronil) accounting for minor losses of total fiproles entering WWTPs. The load of total fiproles was fairly consistent across the facilities but fiprole speciation varied. This first regional study on fiprole and imidacloprid occurrences in raw and treated California sewage revealed ubiquity and marked persistence to conventional treatment of both phenylpyrazole and neonicotinoid compounds. Flea and tick control agents for pets are identified as potential sources of pesticides in sewage meriting further investigation and inclusion in chemical-specific risk assessments.