Silver near municipal wastewater discharges into western Lake Ontario, Canada

  • Chris D. MetcalfeEmail author
  • Tamanna Sultana
  • Jonathan Martin
  • Karla Newman
  • Paul Helm
  • Sonya Kleywegt
  • Li Shen
  • Viviane Yargeau


Because of the widespread use of silver nanoparticles in commercial products, discharges of municipal wastewater may be a point source of silver in the aquatic environment. We monitored two sites in western Lake Ontario impacted by discharges from wastewater treatment plants serving the City of Toronto. Concentrations of silver were elevated in bottom sediments and suspended sediments collected at the two sites. We also deployed two types of passive samplers in the water column at the two sites, the newly developed Carbon Nanotube Integrative Samplers for monitoring “CNIS-labile” silver and Diffusive Gradient in Thin Film samplers for monitoring “DGT-labile” silver. Results from these passive samplers indicated that the concentrations of silver at the two sites were either below detection limits or were in the ng/L range. In laboratory experiments where the sediments were re-suspended in Milli-Q water, a small proportion of the silver (i.e., < 25%) was labile and partitioned as colloidal or dissolved silver into the liquid phase after agitation. Nanoparticles tentatively identified as silver nanoparticles were detected by single-particle ICP-MS in suspension after agitation of both suspended and bottom sediments. Therefore, there is a need to assess whether silver species, including silver nanoparticles are transported from wastewater treatment plants into sediments in the aquatic environment. This study is unique in focusing on the in situ distribution of silver in natural waters and in sediments that are potentially impacted by urban sources of nanoparticles.


Silver Nanosilver Sediments Wastewater Passive sampler Single-particle ICP-MS 



We thank Brenda Seaborn for her contribution to the project. We also thank field staff of the Great Lakes Unit, OMECC, for the deployment of passive samplers and collections of bed and suspended sediment.


This project received funding support from the Government of Ontario. Such support does not indicate endorsement by the Government of Ontario of the contents of this contribution.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris D. Metcalfe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tamanna Sultana
    • 1
  • Jonathan Martin
    • 1
  • Karla Newman
    • 1
  • Paul Helm
    • 2
  • Sonya Kleywegt
    • 2
  • Li Shen
    • 3
  • Viviane Yargeau
    • 3
  1. 1.Water Quality CentreTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  2. 2.Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate ChangeTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Chemical EngineeringMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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