Date of Award

Fall 2021

Project Type


Program or Major

Civil Engineering

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Paula J Mouser

Second Advisor

James P Malley

Third Advisor

Stephen Jones


Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) represent a class of 10,000+ emerging contaminants that are widely used in communities for a variety of medical, health, and care applications. Many PPCPs are biologically active compounds, are typically unregulated in drinking water and surface waters, and may be incompletely removed in our municipal wastewater treatment systems. Understanding the sources and fate of PPCPs in the environment is important to protecting ecosystems because some compounds may pose toxicity or result in behavioral impacts to aquatic species. This thesis evaluated the presence and concentration of PPCPs in surface water sample locations in New Hampshire's Great Bay Estuary. It also investigated PPCP removal in context with the microbial community diversity and metabolic for potential in four municipal wastewater treatment facilities (WWTFs) discharging to tributaries of the Great Bay Estuary. Microbial community composition of secondary wastewater samples was assessed through sequencing the 16S rRNA biomarker gene while microbial metabolic potential was evaluated through metagenomic sequencing. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling analyses was used to evaluate drivers for water quality changes and PPCP removal based on 16S rRNA amplicon sequence variants in Qiime. Pathways for PPCP biodegradation were elucidated from metagenomic data using MG-Rast and KBASE. Results reveal bacteria as the dominant microbial domain in each WWTF, with Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and Firmicutes as the most dominant phyla. Xenobiotic biodegradation and metabolism accounted for less than 2% of all metabolic activity at each WWTF. This research advances our understanding of the occurrence and fate of PPCPs during wastewater treatment.