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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Latest publications

Anliker, S.; Loos, M.; Comte, R.; Ruff, M.; Fenner, K.; Singer, H. (2020) Assessing emissions from pharmaceutical manufacturing based on temporal high-resolution mass spectrometry data, Environmental Science and Technology, doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b07085, Institutional Repository
Fu, Q.; Fedrizzi, D.; Kosfeld, V.; Schlechtriem, C.; Ganz, V.; Derrer, S.; Rentsch, D.; Hollender, J. (2020) Biotransformation changes bioaccumulation and toxicity of diclofenac in aquatic organisms, Environmental Science and Technology, doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b07127, Institutional Repository
Fenner, K.; Screpanti, C.; Renold, P.; Rouchdi, M.; Vogler, B.; Rich, S. (2020) Comparison of small molecule biotransformation half-lives between activated sludge and soil: opportunities for read-across?, Environmental Science and Technology, 54(6), 3148-3158, doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b05104, Institutional Repository
Diemer, N.; Staudacher, P.; Atuhaire, A.; Fuhrimann, S.; Inauen, J. (2020) Smallholder farmers' information behavior differs for organic versus conventional pest management strategies: a qualitative study in Uganda, Journal of Cleaner Production, 257, 120465 (9 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.120465, Institutional Repository

Current open positions at Uchem:


Pharmaceutical production leaves its mark on surface water quality

Photo: Norbert Aepli, CC BY
Even in Basel, 100 km downstream of the pharmaceutical manufacturing site, the patterns of drug production emissions were still detectable.

March 31, 2020
Using a simple but ingenious strategy, a research team has successfully demonstrated how water quality downstream of wastewater treatment plants is influenced by a single pharmaceutical manufacturing site: as variations in the concentrations of compounds over time are dependent on production cycles, it is possible to distinguish between industrial and household emissions – even a long way downstream. read more

Chlorothalonil puts strain on water supply

Photo: Nora Minas, Eawag
Spring catchment on the Swiss Plateau

February 20, 2020,
Degradation products of the fungal agent chlorothalonil are found widely in groundwater on the Swiss Plateau, even in places where it is used as drinking water. Dealing with these substances is becoming a challenge for waterworks. There is a wide range between rash immediate measures and concealing the problem. An Eawag fact sheet serves to contribute to an objective discussion and longer-term strategies. read more

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