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Developing Unique Non-Target High Resolution Mass Spectrometry Signatures to Track Contaminant Sources in Urban Waters



Bowen Du, Zhenyu Tian, Katherine Peter, Edward P. Kolodziej, Charles S. Wong


Non-point source pollution in urban receiving waters often adversely impacts both humans and ecosystems. Identifying such pollution sources is challenging and limits the effectiveness of management actions intended to reduce risk. Here, we evaluated the use of non-target analysis via high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) to develop chemical fingerprints/signatures for improved source tracking. In particular, we applied non-target HRMS to characterize and differentiate two urban chemical sources: roadway runoff and wastewater influent. We isolated 112 and 598 non-target compounds (both known and unidentified chemicals) that co-occurred in all roadway runoff and wastewater influent samples, respectively, and were unique relative to other sampled sources. For example, methamphetamine, often considered wastewater-derived, was detected in all samples, implying that individual wastewater indicators may lack sufficient specificity in urban receiving waters impacted by multiple sources. Hierarchical cluster analysis differentiated source types and normalized abundance profiling prioritized non-target compounds with consistent relative abundance patterns across field sites for a given source. Hexa(methoxymethyl)melamine, 1,3-diphenylguanidine, and polyethylene glycols co-occurred in roadway runoff across geographic areas and traffic intensities, supporting continued development of a universal roadway runoff fingerprint based on ubiquitous compounds. This study provides a foundation for isolating non-target source fingerprints to track non-point contamination in urban receiving waters.
Environmental Science and Technology Letters


Du, B. , Tian, Z. , Peter, K. , Kolodziej, E. and Wong, C. (2020), Developing Unique Non-Target High Resolution Mass Spectrometry Signatures to Track Contaminant Sources in Urban Waters, Environmental Science and Technology Letters, [online], (Accessed May 28, 2024)


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Created October 13, 2020, Updated October 12, 2021