Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

William J. Doucette


William J. Doucette


Bruce Bugbee


Darren McAvoy


Laurie S. McNeill


Reclaimed water (treated water discharged from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs)) is increasingly used in drier regions for irrigation purposes. This effectively increases the water supply and reduces the amount of WWTP discharge into surface waters but it creates the potential for contaminants in the reclaimed water, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), to accumulate in exposed crops. The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) considers PPCPs contaminants of emerging concern due to their near universal presence in the environment and their potential for endocrine disruption. Biochar is gaining attention as a soil amendment and could potentially be used to sequester contaminants in the soil thereby reducing the contaminant uptake in crops.

The main objective of this study was to investigate the impact of wood biochar on the corn uptake of PPCPs originating from reclaimed water. Biochars derived from regional trees were chosen because they are rapidly expanding and represent a source of forest fire fuel (pinyon and juniper trees) or because they are frequently attacked by insects (lodgepole pine). The impact of biochar on contaminant uptake was tested by growing corn in non-amended soil and soil amended with biochar while being watered with reclaimed water supplemented with PPCPs (1 mg/L). Sand was also used for comparison since it is a less sorptive growth media. After a 28- day growing period, the corn leaves were dried, extracted, and analyzed for PPCPs.