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Welcome to the web home for Field, Lab, Earth, the podcast from the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. The podcast all about past and present advances in agronomic, crop, soil, and environmental sciences, our show features timely interviews with our authors about research in these fields.

Field, Lab, Earth releases on the third Friday of each month in addition to the occasional bonus episode. If you enjoy our show, please be sure to tell your friends and rate and review. If you have a topic, author, or paper you would like featured or have other feedback, please contact us on Twitter @fieldlabearth or use the email icon below. You can join our newsletter to receive notifications about new episodes and related resources here.

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Jun 13, 2018

“Artificial Sweeteners Reveal Septic System Effluent in Rural Groundwater” with Dr. John Spoelstra.

Dr. John Spoelstra is something like a wastewater detective. If there is secret wastewater that is contaminating groundwater and putting health outcomes at risk, he wants to know. To trace the path of wastewater, he uses a special set of tools: tracer compounds. These are compounds that are not found in the natural environment, but have a lot of human use. Examples are caffeine, acetaminophen, anti-seizure medication, and a recent discovery Dr. Spoelstra and his team have found to be incredibly effective: artificial sweeteners. Think about it: they are in everything from fruit snacks to ketchup to toothpaste and mouthwash. In his latest research, he needed to investigate the source of a surplus of nitrogen in a community’s soil. Artificial sweeteners in rural wells and river seeps pointed to a wastewater problem.

Listen in to hear more about:

  • The potential threats of wastewater to the environment and humans
  • How Dr. Spoelstra’s team figured out that artificial sweeteners could be such a powerful tool
  • What ion chromatography is and how it separates out the chemicals in a sample

If you would like more information about this topic, today’s paper is available here:

This paper is always freely available.

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If you would like to reach out to John, you can find him here:


CEU Quiz: 

“Grand River has highest levels of artificial sweetener pollution on record:”

Municipal Wastewater Treatment Systems:

EPA-Private Wells:

EPA-Septic Systems:

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