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Researchers use wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) as observatories of chemical and biological agents entering and leaving cities. This project focuses on developing, validating and applying urban metrology (measurement of the chemical burden of cities) to create a real-time tool for understanding the effects of chemical and biological agents in the environment.

Since the majority of consumer chemicals and their transformation products used in human society are flushed down the drain, efficient chemical monitoring in WWTP process flows may provide near-real time information on chemical usage and environmental dispersion in communities.

The work takes place at ASU’s Center for Environmental Security (CES). The CES houses the Human Health Observatory (H2O), a unique resource representing tens of thousands of environmental samples including wastewater, sludge, sediments and groundwater collected from diverse locations across the U.S, as well as specimen samples of human tissues and biofluids useful in quantifying real-world toxic exposures.

The current work leverages this previously established sample repository and a network of WWTPs through collaboration with U.S. EPA and USGS, to demonstrate and validate the accuracy and utility of this unique monitoring approach for understanding human activities in urban centers and the subsequent impacts on surrounding ecosystems and biodiversity.


  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • United States Geological Survey
  • ASU Center for Environmental Security





January 2015 — January 2020