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Water Res. 2016 Jan 1;88:653-660. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2015.10.051. Epub 2015 Nov 11.

Degradation of sucralose in groundwater and implications for age dating contaminated groundwater.

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University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1, Canada. Electronic address:
Environment Canada, Burlington, Ontario, Canada.
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1, Canada; Environment Canada, Burlington, Ontario, Canada.
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1, Canada.


The artificial sweetener sucralose has been in use in Canada and the US since about 2000 and in the EU since 2003, and is now ubiquitous in sanitary wastewater in many parts of the world. It persists during sewage treatment and in surface water environments and as such, has been suggested as a powerful tracer of wastewater. In this study, longer-term persistence of sucralose was examined in groundwater by undertaking a series of three sampling snapshots of a well constrained wastewater plume in Canada (Long Point septic system) over a 6-year period from 2008 to 2014. A shrinking sucralose plume in 2014, compared to earlier sampling, during this period when sucralose use was likely increasing, provides clear evidence of degradation. However, depletion of sucralose from a mean of 40 μg/L in the proximal plume zone, occurred at a relatively slow rate over a period of several months to several years. Furthermore, examination of septic tank effluent and impacted groundwater at six other sites in Canada, revealed that sucralose was present in all samples of septic tank effluent (6-98 μg/L, n = 32) and in all groundwater samples (0.7-77 μg/L, n = 64). Even though sucralose degradation is noted in the Long Point plume, its ubiquitous presence in the groundwater plumes at all seven sites implies a relatively slow rate of decay in many groundwater septic plume environments. Thus, sucralose has the potential to be used as an indicator of 'recent' wastewater contamination. The presence of sucralose identifies groundwater that was recharged after 2000 in Canada and the US and after 2003 in the EU and many Asian countries.


Groundwater; Sweeteners; Tracers; Wastewater

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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