The release of wastewater contaminants in the Arctic: a case study from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada

Luis G. Chaves-Barquero, Kim Hoang Luong, C.J. Mundy, Charles W. Knapp, Mark L Hanson, Charles S. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
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The treatment of municipal wastewater in the Arctic is challenging due to a variety of financial, operational, climatic and technical issues. To better understand the efficacy of current wastewater treatment in this region and the hazard posed to receiving waters, we assessed the occurrence of contaminants (i.e., pharmaceuticals, antibiotic resistance genes and nutrients) as they moved through a lagoon-based treatment system in Cambridge Bay in Nunavut, Canada. Wastewater treatment in this community is performed by the use of a lagoon-tundra wetland system that is discharged into the marine environment and is representative of current common practices throughout the region. In 2014, samples were collected before and during lagoon discharge from two locations in the main lagoon, one location downstream from the lagoon effluent and three locations offshore. Grab samples were collected to measure nutrients (e.g. total nitrogen and phosphorus) and the presence of antibiotic resistance gene-bearing microbes, and Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Samplers (POCIS) were deployed to collect passively organic contaminants in all locations. A total of six pharmaceuticals were detected from a screen of twenty-eight analytes during the study: atenolol, carbamazepine, clarithromycin, metoprolol, sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim. The greatest concentrations of nutrients, antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) and pharmaceuticals were found in sampling locations within the treatment lagoon. Offshore of the release point, we observed limited to no detection of pharmaceuticals and ARGs and no change in total nitrogen and phosphorus from pre-release. We conclude that the current concentrations of monitored pharmaceuticals do not pose a significant hazard at this time to aquatic organisms in Cambridge Bay.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-550
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Early online date26 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Arctic
  • pharmaceuticals
  • wastewater lagoons
  • risk assessment
  • nutrients
  • antibiotic resistance genes


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