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.

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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

Photo: Aldo Todaro
Christoph Ort, SWW (left) and Heinz Singer, Uchem (right) in the MS2field-trailer. (Photo: Aldo Todaro)

Mobile system measures water quality in real time

June 10, 2020
Thanks to a new instrument, water pollutants can be measured automatically over a period of weeks – directly in the field, rather than in the laboratory. The mobile mass spectrometer is housed in a trailer and can be remotely controlled by smartphone. read more

Latest publications

Kiefer, K.; Bader, T.; Minas, N.; Salhi, E.; Janssen, E. M. -L.; von Gunten, U.; Hollender, J. (2020) Chlorothalonil transformation products in drinking water resources: widespread and challenging to abate, Water Research, 183, 116066 (11 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.watres.2020.116066, Institutional Repository
Chow, R.; Scheidegger, R.; Doppler, T.; Dietzel, A.; Fenicia, F.; Stamm, C. (2020) A review of long-term pesticide monitoring studies to assess surface water quality trends, Water Research X, 9, 100064 (13 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.wroa.2020.100064, Institutional Repository
Burdon, F. J.; Bai, Y.; Reyes, M.; Tamminen, M.; Staudacher, P.; Mangold, S.; Singer, H.; Räsänen, K.; Joss, A.; Tiegs, S. D.; Jokela, J.; Eggen, R. I. L.; Stamm, C. (2020) Stream microbial communities and ecosystem functioning show complex responses to multiple stressors in wastewater, Global Change Biology, 26(11), 6363-6382, doi:10.1111/gcb.15302, Institutional Repository
Köpping, I.; McArdell, C. S.; Borowska, E.; Böhler, M. A.; Udert, K. M. (2020) Removal of pharmaceuticals from nitrified urine by adsorption on granular activated carbon, Water Research X, 9, 100057 (10 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.wroa.2020.100057, 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