[Pharmwaste] Senator seeks drinking water oversight options (IL)

Tenace, Laurie Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Tue May 12 11:19:49 EDT 2009


Senator seeks drinking water oversight options
'We're all in this together' 

May 12, 2009 

By JIM NEWTON jnewton at scn1.com
With recent water quality concerns ranging from pharmaceuticals in drinking
water to industry-related well contamination in Crestwood, state officials
are eying more oversight options.

State Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest, is calling for the creation of a
Clean Water Commission to track water contamination in Illinois.

Garrett also is sponsoring a legislative amendment, proposed by Attorney
General Lisa Madigan, that would include more stringent public notification
requirements for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency with regard to
contaminated drinking water supplies.

"The Crestwood scenario is the result of inaction and further proof that our
priority should be clean water for the citizens of Illinois." Garrett said.
"Those affected by possible water contamination must absolutely be notified
immediately to prevent instances of contamination."

But while the situation in Crestwood allegedly involved the knowing use of
contaminated well water by the municipality, the far more widespread
occurrence of low-level prescription drug content in drinking water is much
more difficult to monitor and address.

At a water summit hosted by Garrett in Lake Forest Monday, officials said
people flushing expired drugs down the toilet causes just a fraction of the
pollution, and that most comes from drug content in urine that is flushed.

"As the population ages, we pee out more drugs, more pharmaceuticals, not
less," said guest speaker Dr. William Cooper, director of the Water Research
Center at University of California. "It's not like a toxic waste dump. You
can't point your finger at anybody but yourself. We're all in this together."

Cooper said that agencies like the Illinois EPA are doing the best they can
on the issue under the budgets and information they have to work with.

"Nobody knows what's going on," he said. "We're starting to plow new fields
in terms of pharmaceuticals."

Cooper expressed confidence that research is leading to methods to destroy
such pharmaceuticals from drinking supplies, but said it will be expensive
and that funding sources, such as possible water rate increases, will need to
be identified.

In the meantime, one simple contribution everyone can make, according to
Cooper, is to flush the toilet less often after urinating. "It's simple but
very effective," he said. "It's easier to treat (wastewater) in higher

Cooper said there are also no definitive information on what, if any,
negative impacts humans face from drinking such low levels of

"Does anyone know if untreated intake is a problem," Garrett asked,
especially referring to children and those with health problems.

"The answer is 'no'," Cooper responded, but added that one step in the right
direction might be an international conference hosted by the U.S. EPA to
bring together experts and public health officials "to all get on the same

Laurie Tenace
Environmental Specialist
Waste Reduction Section
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Rd., MS 4555
Tallahassee FL 32399-2400
P: 850.245.8759
F: 850.245.8811
Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us 

Mercury: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/mercury/default.htm 

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