Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Colorado
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Cavallin, J.E., J. Beihoffer, B.R. Blackwell, A.R. Cole, D.R. Ekman, R. Hofer, A. Jastrow, J. Kinsey, K. Keteles, E.M. Maloney, J. Parman, D.L. Winkelman, D.L. Villeneuve. In review. Effects-Based Monitoring of Bioactive Compounds Associated with Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant Effluent Discharge to the South Platte River, Colorado, USA. Environmental Pollution.


Previous studies have detected numerous organic contaminants and in vitro bioactivities in surface water from the South Platte River near Denver, Colorado, USA. To evaluate the temporal and spatial distribution of selected contaminants of emerging concern, water samples were collected throughout 2018 and 2019 at 11 sites within the S. Platte River and surrounding tributaries with varying proximities to a major wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Water samples were analyzed for pharmaceuticals, pesticides, steroid hormones, and wastewater in- dicators and screened for in vitro biological activities. Multiplexed, in vitro assays that simultaneously screen for agonistic activity against 24 human nuclear receptors detected estrogen receptor (ER), peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-gamma (PPARγ), and glucocorticoid receptor (GR) bioactivities in water samples near the WWTP outflow. Targeted in vitro bioassays assessing ER, GR, and PPARγ agonism corroborated bioactivities for ER (up to 55 ± 9.7 ng/L 17β-estradiol equivalents) and GR (up to 156 ± 28 ng/L dexamethasone equivalents), while PPARγ activity was not confirmed. To evaluate the potential in vivo significance of the bioactive contaminants, sexually-mature fathead minnows were caged at six locations upstream and downstream of the WWTP for 5 days after which targeted gene expression analyses were performed. Significant up-regulation of male hepatic vitellogenin was observed at sites with corresponding in vitro ER activity. No site-related differences in GR-related transcript abundance were detected in female adipose or male livers, suggesting observed environ- mental concentrations of GR-active contaminants do not induce a detectable in vivo response. In line with the lack of detectable targeted in vitro PPARɣ activity, there were no significant effects on PPARɣ-related gene expression. Although the chemicals responsible for GR and PPAR-mediated bioactivities are unknown, results from the present study provide i relative to short-term in situ fish exposures.