Published on July 23rd, 2012 | by Steven Hodson0
High Levels Of Caffeine On The Pacific Coast Caused By Human Urine
I’m betting that this is one headline that you never expected to read but apparently our love of all things coffee is causing elevated levels of caffeine in the waters off the coast of Oregon.
Yup, all that Starbucks and Peet’s consumption is making its way through the sewers into the Pacific ocean, or at least this is what researchers Zoe Rodrigues del Rey and Elise Granek discovered in a recent study.
Their study was apparently meant to find out if waste chemicals were making their way through the waste sewage treatment centers but found varying levels of caffeine.
In spring 2010, Rodriguez del Rey and Granek collected and analyzed samples from coastal locations and adjacent water bodies from Astoria to Brookings. Of the coastal sampling sites, Cape Lookout had the highest presence of caffeine with 45 nanograms per liter. That was followed by Carl Washburne in Florence, with 30 nanograms/liter; Lincoln City and Newport, each with 18 nanograms per liter, and Seaside/Gearhart with 9 nanograms per liter. High levels were also found following a late-season storm of wind and rain that triggered sewer overflows.
Yet large population centers such as Astoria/Warrenton and Coos Bay had low traces of caffeine, below the mean reporting level.
The results suggest that wastewater treatment plants are effective at removing caffeine, but that high rainfall and combined sewer overflows flush the contaminants out to sea. The results also suggest that septic tanks, such as those used at the state parks, may be less effective at containing pollution. Granek noted that there’s “very little regulation or monitoring” of septic systems once installed, “and possibly because of that there’s not much tracking of whether septic systems are functioning well.”
You can find the full study in the June 2012 Marine Pollution Bulletin – “Occurrence and concentration of caffeine in Oregon coastal waters.”