US Geological Survey


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Analysis of earthworms offers potential for assessing the transfer of organic anthropogenic waste indicators (AWIs) derived from land-applied biosolid or manure to biota. Earthworms and soil samples were collected from three Midwest agricultural fields to measure the presence and potential for transfer of 77 AWIs from land-applied biosolids and livestock manure to earthworms. The sites consisted of a soybean field with no amendments of human or livestock waste (Site 1), a soybean field amended with biosolids from a municipal wastewater treatment plant (Site 2), and a cornfield amended with swine manure (Site 3). The biosolid applied to Site 2 contained a diverse composition of 28 AWIs, reflecting the presence of human use compounds. The swine manure contained 12 AWIs, and was dominated by biogenic sterols. Soil and earthworm samples were collected in the spring (about 30 days after soil amendment) and fall (140-155 days after soil amendment) at all field sites. Soils from Site 1 contained 21 AWIs and soil from Sites 2 and 3 contained 19 AWIs. The AWI profiles at Sites 2 and 3 generally reflected the relative composition of AWIs present in waste material applied. There were 20 AWIs detected in earthworms from Site 1 (three compounds exceeding concentrations of 1000 μg/kg), 25 AWIs in earthworms from Site 2 (seven compounds exceeding concentrations of 1000 μg/ kg), and 21 AWIs in earthworms from Site 3 (five compounds exceeding concentrations of 1000μg/kg).A number of compounds that were present in the earthworm tissue were at concentrations less than reporting levels in the corresponding soil samples. The AWIs detected in earthworm tissue from the three field sites included pharmaceuticals, synthetic fragrances, detergent metabolites, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), biogenic sterols, disinfectants, and pesticides, reflecting a wide range of physicochemical properties. For those contaminants detected in earthworm tissue and soil, bioaccumulation factors (BAF) ranged from 0.05 (galaxolide) to 27 (triclosan).This study documents that when AWIs are present in source materials that are land applied, such as biosolids and swine manure, AWIs can be transferred to earthworms.