Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Gail Carlson

Second Advisor

Denise Bruesewitz

Third Advisor

Philip Nyhus


Pharmaceuticals and personal care product chemicals (PPCPs) represent a large group of contaminants that are mostly not regulated in surface or drinking water and whose presence and environmental and health impacts are poorly understood. We investigated the presence and potential sources of 18 PPCPs in Messalonskee Lake. We collected samples four times over the summer of 2017 at 13 sites around the lake. Samples were tested for PPCPs using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. We detected five out of the 18 PPCPs we tested for at the ng/L level: caffeine, 1,7-dimethylxanthine, acetaminophen, sulfachloropyridazine, and amphetamine. PPCPs showed a significant positive correlation with total nitrogen. PPCPs were more prevalent at public high-use sites than private sites. Direct human input may be one of the major sources of PPCPs in Messalonskee Lake. The significance of septic systems as a source of PPCPs in the lake is still undetermined. The number of detections and concentrations seen in Messalonskee Lake are similar to other studied lakes that are not impacted by wastewater treatment plants. We also conducted a survey of residents in the Messalonskee watershed. Of 33 survey respondents,16 reported having had their septic system inspected within the past three years, and 18 reported having a septic system under 20 years old. Only one survey respondent reported taking their drinking water directly from the lake. Messalonskee Lake is not highly contaminated with PPCPs, but the potential ecological and human health impacts of long-term exposure to low levels of PPCPs should be investigated.


emerging contaminants, pharmaceuticals, aquatic, lentic, Belgrade Lakes, Kennebec County