New efficient methodology for screening of selected organic micropollutants in raw- and drinking water from 90 Swedish water treatment plants

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jul 1:724:138069. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138069. Epub 2020 Mar 21.


A new, efficient method for analysis of organic micropollutants (OMPs) in water samples was developed, validated and applied in a nationwide survey. The goal with the survey was to identify common compounds with relatively high concentrations to be used as markers e.g. for routine monitoring of removal efficiencies. The method comprises sample concentration by evaporation, and large volume injection on a standard UHPLC-MS/MS system. The OMPs selected for this approach were mainly semi-polar and non-volatile, with molecular weights below 300 Da. Except one outlier, the limit of detection (LoD) ranged from 0.01 to 1 ng/L which is sufficient for most surface waters, and also useful for many ground waters. The method requires low manual labor and comparably small sample volumes, enabling a cost-efficient nationwide screening. Raw- and drinking water from 90 Swedish water treatment plants (WTPs) were investigated for occurrence of the selected OMPs. Carbamazepine and tramadol were the most widespread compounds, detected in around 50% of the surface waters. Ground water from rock aquifers were least contaminated, while soil aquifers were more similar to surface waters. Due to the frequent use of ground water in Sweden, many samples did not contain any of the investigated compounds (i.e. below LoD). In the positive samples, the median estimated concentrations of individual OMPs were generally <1 ng/L in raw water and <0.5 ng/L in drinking water. Swedish waters were in general less contaminated than those investigated in similar Brazilian, Chinese, pan-European and US studies. Altogether, the presented methodology gave a cost-efficient overview on the occurrence and estimated concentrations of OMPs in raw- and drinking water on a national level in Sweden. From the data, WTPs can find suitable OMPs to monitor at their site, for example for measuring removal efficiencies on a routine basis.

Keywords: Mass spectrometry; Pesticides; Pharmaceuticals; Remediation; Survey; Treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Brazil
  • Drinking Water*
  • Sweden
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Purification*


  • Drinking Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical