Chemicals of emerging concern in coastal aquifers: Assessment along the land-ocean interface.


Submarine Groundwater Discharge (SGD) is recognized as a relevant source of pollutants to the sea, but little is known about its relevance as a source of chemicals of emerging concern (CECs). Here, both the presence and distribution of a wide range of CECs have been evaluated in the most comprehensive manner to date, in a well-characterized Mediterranean coastal aquifer near Barcelona (Spain). Samples from coastal groundwater and seawater allowed for the unique spatial characterization of the pollutants present in the land-ocean interface, an outstanding research gap that required attention. The main goals were (1) to determine CECs in the aquifer, so as to evaluate the SGD as a relevant source of marine pollution, and (2) to identify new tracers to improve our understanding of SGD dynamics. To this end, 92 CECs were located in the aquifer by using wide-scope analytical target methodologies (>2000 chemicals). Among them, the perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), along with the pharmaceuticals carbamazepine and topiramate, were revealed to be good markers for tracing anthropogenic contamination in ground- and seawater, in concrete situations (e.g., highly contaminated sites). Additionally, non-target analysis expanded the number of potential tracers, making it a promising tool for identifying both the source and the fate of pollutants.

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