[Pharmwaste] Ill. Water Tests Ordered After AP Series

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Thu Mar 13 07:59:00 EDT 2008

Ill. Water Tests Ordered After AP Series
Ill. Orders Water Testing In Reax To AP Series; Providers Elsewhere Assure
Supplies Are OK

(AP) The governor of Illinois ordered screening of the state's waterways for
pharmaceuticals Wednesday in reaction to an Associated Press investigation
into the presence of trace amounts of medicines in U.S. drinking water.

The announcement by Gov. Rod Blagojevich came as the New York City Council
scheduled an emergency committee hearing and as water providers across the
nation assured residents that their water is safe to drink _ even if it
hasn't been tested.

Blagojevich said he had ordered the state's environmental agency to begin
screening waterways for pharmaceuticals and to promote safer disposal of
medicines. The governor also announced that the state will partner with
Chicago officials to test that city's drinking water.

The AP series reported that Chicago was one of the largest U.S. cities that
does not test its drinking water.

Blagojevich also directed state health officials to further assess the
effects of any pharmaceutical contamination on human health.

In New York City, where the AP reported that trace concentrations of heart
medicine, infection fighters, estrogen, anti-convulsants, a mood stabilizer
and a tranquilizer have been detected in the upstate source of the city's
water, the City Council has scheduled an emergency public hearing for April
3. The AP reported that despite the test results in the watershed, the city
does not test its downstate drinking water.

"I'm very concerned about the possible effects of even traces of
pharmaceuticals in our drinking water," said Councilman James G. Gennaro, a
Democrat from Queens who heads the council's environmental protection

Senate hearings have been scheduled by Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and other members of Congress have called for the
appointment of a task force and additional research.

"The Associated Press investigation was illuminating and a great service, but
it was not an official governmental study, and I doubt your agency will act
on an outside group's findings," wrote Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., in a letter
sent Wednesday to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "If there are
pharmaceuticals in our water, our government should be fully aware of the
problem and working to correct it."

The EPA released a statement in response to the AP series. "EPA appreciates
any opportunity to raise the public's awareness about the safe disposal of
prescription drugs and environmental responsibility," said spokesman Timothy
Lyons. "The agency's work to protect the nation's water supply and enhance
human health is ongoing, and we are pleased to see the interest Americans
have taken in this effort."

The five-month-long project by the AP National Investigative Team, published
this week, found that drugs _ mostly the residue of medications taken by
people, excreted and flushed down the toilet _ have gotten into the drinking
water supplies of at least 24 major metropolitan areas, from Southern
California to northern New Jersey.

The risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low
levels of pharmaceuticals are unknown. While no proof has been found of human
health effects, recent studies have detected alarming adverse effects on
human cells and wildlife.

Officials in other cities and water agencies also pressed for testing _ and
others demanded that any test results be disclosed.

The most pervasive response, repeated by officials in communities around the
country, was that although their water hasn't been tested for
pharmaceuticals, there is no reason to be concerned.

>From Cheyenne, Wyo., to Jacksonville, Fla., and in dozens of communities
elsewhere, water department officials reminded consumers that the traces of
pharmaceuticals being found nationwide are minute and that the quality of
their water exceeds all EPA water standards. However, the EPA does not have
any standards for pharmaceuticals in water.

Calls fr action appeared on newspaper editorial pages.

"Why isn't there a national standard that would ensure more rigorous testing?
The Environmental Protection Agency should be taking leadership on this,"
said a Philadelphia Daily News editorial.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer said that water studies are underway in its
region, but that "more can and must be done, from widespread sampling of area
waters and federal standards for pharmaceutical sampling to far more
intensive research on ways to remove such residues from drinking water. The
public's health demands nothing less."

In some cases, providers who had not disclosed to the AP what they found in
their water opted to tell their local news media after the investigative
story came out.

For example, the Santa Clara Valley Water Agency _ which previously would not
specify which pharmaceuticals were detected in its watershed _ has since told
local reporters those compounds included ibuprofen, anti-convulsants and

Water officials in Des Moines, Iowa, Cape Cod in Massachusetts and in
Southern California's Inland Empire region, not part of the AP survey, told
reporters about pharmaceuticals that had been detected in their water
supplies, as well.

"Just as water utilities need data to make informed decisions, we believe
that consumers should have the information they need to make personal health
decisions," said Diane VanDe Hei, executive director of the Association of
Metropolitan Water Agencies, a group representing the largest publicly owned
drinking water suppliers in the United States.

In some locales, officials said they were already gathering data or would
like information to be compiled.

"It will equip us with the scientifically sound information that is necessary
to shape future courses of action to ensure public health and protect the
environment," said Kathleen McGinty, the state environmental secretary for
Pennsylvania, where 56 different pharmaceuticals or byproducts were detected
in Philadelphia's drinking water.

Water managers in Fresno, Calif., held a meeting this week to allay public
concerns about the area's drinking water but said the city doesn't plan to
change its water treatment process in the wake of the AP investigation.

The city has not tested for pharmaceuticals in and around its wastewater
treatment plant because it doesn't have the appropriate testing technology,
said city spokeswoman Rhonda Jorn.

"We are very confident that we do have safe drinking water," Jorn said. "Of
course, we'd be more than happy to test for pharmaceuticals in the water
should the EPA make that technology available to us."

The AP's findings also have made their way to the late-night TV talk show

"Right here in Los Angeles they found high levels of anti-anxiety medication
in the water, but health officials say, 'Oh, don't worry about it,' " said
Jay Leno during a monologue Monday night on his NBC-TV program. "Well, we
can't worry about it. It's in the water!"

Laurie J. Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Road, MS 4555
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400
PH: (850) 245-8759
FAX: (850) 245-8811
Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us 

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