Department Environmental Chemistry

On the trail of pollutants

Our research team studies the presence, distribution and fate of organic pollutants in the aquatic environment. The focus of our research is on substance flux from urban areas and from agriculture, and the main tools that we use for this work are trace analysis, field and laboratory studies and modelling.

Read more


Switzerland News - Mitholz Ammunition Depot Toxic traces in the water

March 3, 2020
Traces of toxic explosive compounds such as TNT and its transformation products were found downstream of the former ammunition storage site in Mitholz. Plans for site remediation and the complex hydrogeology of the Kander valley raise concerns about future water contamination.
See reporting  on Swiss television. Only available in Swiss German.

Photo: Eawag, Urs Schönenberger
Here, water from several inlet shafts converges before flowing directly into the nearby stream. (Photo: Eawag, Urs Schönenberger)

Shortcuts lead to greater pesticide contamination

November 3, 2020
In agricultural areas, large volumes of water from fields, roads and paths drain directly into streams via manholes and other forms of artificial drainage. These shortcuts also transport pesticides into surface waters – and, according to a new study, in significantly larger quantities than was previously assumed. read more


Sediementcore from Greifensee (Photo: Eawag, Schmid)
Sediementcore from Greifensee
(Photo: Eawag, Schmid)

Early Recognition of Pollutants in Soils and Sediments

September 02, 2020
Researchers from Agroscope, Eawag and ETH have developed a method for the comprehensive detection of organic pollutant residues in soils and sediments. Initial results show that, in addition to known substances, there are also a number of substances detected for the first time.  read more

Latest publications

Mairinger, T.; Loos, M.; Hollender, J. (2021) Characterization of water-soluble synthetic polymeric substances in wastewater using LC-HRMS/MS, Water Research, 190, 116745 (11 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.watres.2020.116745, Institutional Repository
Hansen, M. R. H.; Jørs, E.; Sandbæk, A.; Sekabojja, D.; Ssempebwa, J. C.; Mubeezi, R.; Staudacher, P.; Fuhrimann, S.; Sigsgaard, T.; Burdorf, A.; Bibby, B. M.; Schlünssen, V. (2021) Organophosphate and carbamate insecticide exposure is related to lung function change among smallholder farmers: a prospective study, Thorax, doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2020-214609, Institutional Repository
Anliker, S.; Patrick, M.; Fenner, K.; Singer, H. (2020) Quantification of active ingredient losses from formulating pharmaceutical industries and contribution to wastewater treatment plant emissions, Environmental Science and Technology, 54(23), 15046-15056, doi:10.1021/acs.est.0c05178, Institutional Repository
Dietzel, A.; Zaffarano, P.; Stamm, C. (2020) Transparenter Umgang mit Zielkonflikten für eine gewässerschonende Schweizer Landwirtschaft, Agrarforschung Schweiz, 11, 217-223, Institutional Repository

Selected and representative research projects

Comprehensive monitoring of organic trace substances in surface waters is time-consuming and costly. The NAWA SPEZ project delivers data and analyses on the status of water pollution.
Predicting environment-specific biotransformation of chemical contaminants
The screening of aquatic systems for known and unknown polar and semi-polar organic micropollutants relies heavily on analytical chemistry, foremost high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) coupled to liquid chromatography (LC)....
Pilot scale advanced treatment of wastewater with granular activated carbon (GAC) and combined with ozonation (O3/GAC) at WWTP Glarnerland