The threat to the aquatic environment posed by root zone leaching of estrogens from manure-treated fields has hitherto been overlooked. The steroid hormones 17β-estradiol (E2) and its degradation product estrone (E1) are of particular environmental concern as both are abundant in slurry from pregnant and cycling pigs and both are potential endocrine disruptors (lowest observable effect level (LOEL) 14 and 3.3 ng/L, respectively). The present one-year study examines the transport of E1 and E2 from manure to tile drainage systems at two field sites on structured, loamy soil. The estrogens leached from the root zone to tile drainage water in concentrations exceeding the LOEL for as long as 3 months after application, with the maximum recorded concentration of E1 and E2 being 68.1 and 2.5 ng/ L, respectively. Transport of estrogens from the soil to the aquatic environment was governed by pronounced macropore flow and consequent rapid movement of the estrogens to the tile drains. These findings suggest that the application of manure to structured soils poses a potential contamination risk to the aquatic environment with estrogen, particularly when manure is applied to areas where the majority of streamwater derives from drainage water.
- Programme Area 2: Water Resources