Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering | Civil Engineering | Engineering
Organic micropollutants (OMPs) have presented a global challenge to water resources management due to concerns over their adverse impacts on aquatic biota and human health at low exposure concentrations (e.g., at ng/L to μg/L levels in aquatic systems). OMPs encompass an extensive array of synthetic organic compounds (e.g., pharmaceuticals, pesticides, personal care products, household chemicals, industrial additives) and their transformation products. My research has been centered around establishing analytical methods based on liquid chromatography-high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS), with a focus on the development and application of suspect and nontarget screening workflows for the identification and prioritization of OMPs in inland lakes, streams, and urban wastewater in New York State. In Chapter 1, I collaborated with volunteers from the Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program and scientists at the Upstate Freshwater Institute to conduct the first statewide investigation of OMP occurrence in New York inland lakes. Through this project, I developed a suspect screening method based on LC-HRMS to identify and quantify 65 OMPs in 314 lake water samples collected by volunteers from 111 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs across the state. I also performed partial least squares regression and multiple linear regression analyses to prioritize total dissolved nitrogen, specific conductance, and a wastewater-derived fluorescent organic matter component as the best combination of explanatory predictors for the inter-lake variability in OMP occurrence patterns. I further applied the exposure-activity ratio approach to estimate the potential for biological effects associated with OMPs. My work demonstrated that engaging an established network of citizen volunteers offers a viable approach to increasing the spatiotemporal coverage of OMP monitoring while raising public awareness of their prevalence. In Chapter 2, I collaborated with Drs. Christa Kelleher and Rebecca Schewe to investigate the occurrence patterns of OMPs in streams draining mixed-use watersheds in central New York. I combined the use of polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS) with suspect screening and nontarget screening based on LC-HRMS to identify and quantify 133 OMPs in samples collected from 20 stream sites over two sampling seasons. I also performed hierarchical clustering to establish the co-occurrence profiles of OMPs in connection with watershed attributes indicative of anthropogenic influences. I further evaluated the feasibility of deploying POCIS for estimating daily average loads of OMPs and their potential for biological effects in streams via screening-level risk assessments. My work supported the prospect of combining passive sampling with high-resolution accurate mass screening for the multi-watershed characterization of OMP contamination status in streams. In Chapter 3, I collaborated with colleagues from the School of Public Health to pursue one of the earliest wastewater-based epidemiology studies on population-level substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic. I developed and validated an online solid-phase extraction method for sample preconcentration before LC-HRMS analyses to achieve rapid screening of health and lifestyle-related substances in urban wastewater. I applied this method to quantify the levels of 26 pharmaceuticals and lifestyle chemicals in wastewater influent samples collected from six sewersheds in central New York over a period spanning the rising and falling of COVID-19 prevalence. I back-calculated the population-level consumption rates of antidepressants, antiepileptics, antihistamines, antihypertensives, and central nervous system stimulants and further identified their co-variation with disparities in household income, marital status, and/or age of the contributing populations as well as the detection frequency of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater and the COVID-19 test positivity within the sewersheds. My work highlighted the utility of high-throughput wastewater analysis for assessing substance use patterns during a public health crisis such as COVID-19.
Wang, Shiru, "Development and Application of Suspect and Nontarget Screening to Characterize Organic Micropollutants in Aquatic Environments of New York State" (2023). Dissertations - ALL. 1730.