County (Weiser, Idaho) were collected to assess the impact of a nearby confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) on the quality of the local groundwater. All six samples were found contaminated by two veterinary antimicrobials, sulfamethazine (at concentrations from 0.076 to 0.22 μg/l) and sulfadimethoxine (at concentrations from 0.046 to 0.068 μg/l). These groundwater samples also contained elevated concentrations of nitrate and ammonium. Three of the sampled wells have nitrate levels that exceeded the maximum contaminant level set by the US Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water, with nitrate concentration as high as 39.1 mg/l. All but one well showed nitrate, which instead contained ammonium at 1.22 mg/l. Analysis of the nitrate and ammonium in these samples by isotopic ratio mass spectrometry indicated δ15N characteristic of an animal or human waste source. Results from this study underscore the role of CAFO as an important source of antibiotic contamination of groundwater.
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