Occurrence of organic pollutants in the River Itchen and River Test—two chalk streams in Southern England, UK

Rosamund F. A. Robinson, Graham A. Mills, Anthony Gravell, Melanie Schumacher, Gary R. Fones

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The River Itchen and River Test, two chalk streams in Southern England, are sites of special scientific interest. These ecosystems face a number of environmental pressures from anthropogenic inputs of organic pollutants. Hence, we investigated the occurrence of these chemicals within the two catchments. Spot water samples (1 L) were collected at nineteen sites along the catchment on two occasions (March and June 2019). Samples were extracted (HLB-L sorbent disks) and analysed using high-resolution liquid chromatography-quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Compounds were identified against commercially available databases. Using this approach, we found 115 pharmaceutical and personal care products, 81 plant protection products and 35 industrial chemicals. This complex mixture of pollutants covered a range of physico-chemical properties and included priority substances in the EU Water Framework Directive or currently on the third Watch List. Both rivers had similar chemical profiles for both months. Herbicides and fungicides were dominant in the spring, whereas insecticides occurred more frequently in the summer. Point discharges from wastewater treatment plants were the main source of pharmaceutical and personal care products. Agricultural activities were the main contributor to the presence of plant protection products. The impact of these organic chemicals on the ecology, particularly on macroinvertebrate biodiversity, is unknown and warrants further investigation. Our suspect screening approach could guide future toxicological investigations to assess the environmental impacts of these diverse chemicals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17965-17983
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Early online date7 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • Chalk streams
  • Suspect screening
  • Organic chemicals
  • Polar pesticides
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Surface water


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