Concentrations of select dissolved trace elements and anthropogenic organic compounds in the Mississippi River and major tributaries during the summer of 2012 and 2013

  • Derek D. Bussan
  • Clifford A. Ochs
  • Colin R. Jackson
  • Tarun Anumol
  • Shane A. Snyder
  • James V. Cizdziel


The Mississippi River drainage basin includes the Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Arkansas rivers. These rivers drain areas with different physiography, population centers, and land use, with each contributing a different suites of metals and wastewater contaminants that can affect water quality. In July 2012, we determined 18 elements (Be, Rb, Sr, Cd, Cs, Ba, Tl, Pb, Mg, Al, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn) and chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) in the five major tributaries and in the Upper Mississippi River. The following summer, we determined both trace elements and 25 trace organic compounds at 10 sites in a longitudinal study of the main stem of the Mississippi River from Grafton, Illinois to Natchez, Mississippi. We detected wastewater contaminants, including pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting compounds, throughout the river system, with the highest concentrations occurring near urban centers (St. Louis and Memphis). Concentrations were highest for atrazine (673 ng L−1), DEET (540 ng L−1), TCPP (231 ng L−1), and caffeine (202 ng L−1). The Illinois, Missouri, and Yazoo rivers, which drain areas with intense agriculture, had relatively high concentrations of Chl-a and atrazine. However, the Ohio River delivered higher loads of contaminants to the Mississippi River, including an estimated 177 kg day−1 of atrazine, due to higher flow volumes. Concentrations of heavy metals (Ni, V, Co, Cu, Cd, and Zn) were relatively high in the Illinois River and low in the Ohio River, although dissolved metal concentrations were below US EPA maximum contaminant levels for surface water. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that the rivers can be distinguished based on elemental and contaminant profiles.


Mississippi River Trace elements Trace organic compounds Chlorophyll-a Atrazine 



This study was partly funded by an award from the US National Science Foundation (Division of Environmental Biology) (Award #1049911). The team acknowledges Agilent Technologies for their equipment and technical support for the analyses of trace organic contaminants at the University of Arizona. We would like to thank Jason Payne, Justin Millar, Bram Stone, and Alexa Lampkin for all their help with sampling.

Supplementary material

10661_2017_5785_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Esm 1 (DOCX 17 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derek D. Bussan
    • 1
  • Clifford A. Ochs
    • 2
  • Colin R. Jackson
    • 2
  • Tarun Anumol
    • 3
    • 4
  • Shane A. Snyder
    • 3
  • James V. Cizdziel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryUniversity of MississippiUniversityUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of MississippiUniversityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Chemical and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  4. 4.Agilent Technologies Inc.WilmingtonUSA

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