Fate of neonicotinoid insecticides in water and wastewater treatment systems

You are here

Project Period: 
Project Investigator(s): 
D.M. Cwiertny, G.H. LeFevre, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of Iowa
D.W. Kolpin, U.S. Geological Survey

Neonicotinoids represent one of the most heavily used pesticide classes, particularly for corn and soy production. Despite their ubiquity in Midwestern water resources, little is known about their fate in the environment, particularly engineered treatment systems intended to mitigate risks of their exposure. This work is motivated by an overriding hypothesis that chemical and biological processes used in conventional treatment alter the structure of neonicotinoids so as to remove their specificity to invertebrates, thereby exposing non-target organisms, including humans, to unanticipated risks arising from their bioactive transformation products in finished water and effluent. Theresearch plan integrates  laboratory studies  simulating conventional  water and wastewater treatment processes with monitoring of neonicotinoid removal and transformation at the University of Iowa Water Treatment Plant. Outcomes will provide the first insights into best practices for neonicotinoid removal during treatment and better understanding of the risks associated with their formation of unintended transformation byproducts.


Klarich KL, Pflug NC, DeWald EM, Hladik ML, Kolpin DW, Cwiertny DM, LeFevre GH. Occurrence of neonicotinoid insecticides in finished drinking water and fate during drinking water treatment. Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.7b00081.