Many wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are not properly equipped for the removal of various compounds, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), analgesics, and hormones. These compounds are continually discharged into surface waters, which has become an emerging issue for environmental and public health. Microorganisms in the natural environment may play a crucial role in ecosystem self-purification processes such as contaminant degradation. The aim of this research was to determine if there were microorganisms from water and sediment samples located near wastewater effluent outfalls in Central and Western New York capable of degrading ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, and 17β-estradiol, and if the degradation capability of microorganisms varied by sampling site. An isolation approach was developed using serial enrichment in mineral medium containing each individual pharmaceutical as the sole carbon source available to heterotrophs. After four weeks of enrichment, bacteria were isolated and the growth of each isolate on its selected pharmaceutical source was measured. The biodegradation of pharmaceuticals was then examined with the isolates that showed the most consistent growth. Results from the various enrichment experiments have led to the isolation of several heterotrophic bacteria capable of utilizing the compounds as their sole carbon sources. An isolate cultured from Payne Beach had the ability to remove up to 40.1% ± 3.9% of acetaminophen, 23.2% ± 5.7% of ibuprofen, and 18.6% ± 5.3% of 17β-estradiol and an isolate cultured from Charlotte Beach had the ability to remove up to 23.4% ± 3.5% of ibuprofen, 32.2% ± 2.5% of naproxen, and 29.1% ± 1.9% of 17β-estradiol. The data suggests that there are endogenous heterotrophs located near wastewater outfalls that can degrade various pharmaceuticals, and that the degradation capability of microorganisms on certain compounds may be site specific.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Bacteria--Environmental aspects; Bacteria--New York (State), Western--Identification; Drugs--Environmental aspects; Water--Pollution

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Environmental Science (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)


Jeffrey Lodge

Advisor/Committee Member

Anna Christina Tyler

Advisor/Committee Member

Corey Ptak


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at QR74.8 .G35 2016


RIT – Main Campus

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