Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Forest Resources (MFR)


Forestry and Environmental Conservation

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Alex Chow

Committee Member

Dr. Bo Song

Committee Member

Dr. Huan Chen


Micropollutants in water sources are found in higher concentrations in areas with high levels of urban and agricultural land. These pollutants can be introduced into water sources during storms and rain events, through water treatment outputs, and commercial or residential waste. These events increase the levels of both nutrients and micropollutants in these water sources. With increasing levels of micropollutants in rivers, this study’s goal was to develop an alternative detection method or an indicator test for the levels of micropollutants in water. We first proposed the use of amicrobial fuel cell (MFCs) operating as a biosensor could be utilized as an in-situ detection method. An MFC system was developed with the potential to detect micropollutants introduced into the system, specifically sulfamethoxazole (SMX). This detection was shown by a decrease in current output from the system as SMX concentration increases. However, it took far higher of a concentration of SMX for detection to be indicated than that which could typically be found in natural waters, rendering this system impractical for our uses. We then proposed that an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) could have the potential to provide quantitative analysis of the micropollutants in water, as they are generally used to detect antibiotic presence in medical and veterinary applications. Some drawbacks to this method are only being able to detect one micropollutant or class of micropollutants at a time and it is relatively expensive. In early testing we determined the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) levels found in natural waters adversely interfere. Our third experiment proposed that the presence of organic halides (specifically chlorine and bromine,) in a water source could be correlated to the percentage of urban land use in the immediate surrounding area and used as an indicator test for other micropollutants that may be present. This correlation was proposed due to the increase of these nutrients in urban areas, especially after rainfall events, and that urbanized areas also tend to have higher levels of these micropollutants. Nitrogen levels are also expected to increase in areas with relatively high percentages of agricultural land use as nitrogenous fertilizers leach into the surrounding water table. Samples from rivers across the state of South Carolina were measured for the presence of total organic halides, dissolved total nitrogen, and other water quality parameters. These were compared to land use percentages for natural land, agricultural land, and urban land. We found no significant correlations between these measures. Further testing is needed to determine if land use percentage is a viable indicator for organic halide presence in waters. Current recommendations are to continue using primary detection methods for micropollutants in surface waters.



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