A caffeinated Pacific Ocean.
"Our study findings indicate that, contrary to our prediction, the waste water treatment plants are not a major source of caffeine to coastal waters," Elise Granek, assistant professor of environmental science and management at Portland State University, said. "However, onsite waste disposal systems may be a big contributor of contaminants to Oregon’s coastal ocean and need to be better studied to fully understand their contribution to pollution of ocean waters."
The NOAA study had postulated that caffeine levels would be higher near waste water treatment plants. Caffeine levels are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency or by state environmental regulators but there are links that caffeine in the water supply can impact various aquatic life, such as cause cellular stress in mussels.
The levels found in the more remote study areas in Oregon and Washington "did cause these mussels to exhibit cellular stress," said Granek. "If we expose them to higher concentrations or longer terms, do we see changes in growth rates, or changes in reproductive output?"
More research will be done to determine the specific impacts of caffeine on the environment.