[Pharmwaste] sources of drugs to our waters and efforts to reduce them

Scott Stoner sxstoner at gw.dec.state.ny.us
Fri Feb 5 12:17:50 EST 2010

I've read with interest recent postings about the percentage of drugs from humans, the need to treat them, and where to focus our efforts.
While I don't believe the contributions from human excretion is close to 99%, it is certainly a major source. In our frequent outreach talks, we describe a number of sources, including ourselves - and the flushing of unused drugs by households and institutions, biosolids, aquiculture, and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.  We agree that typical wastewater treatment is not designed to remove pharmaceuticals, and is only partially effective at doing so. Treatment that is most effective at removing drugs is very costly, and not practical on a statewide basis at all municipal waste water facilities.  New York already has a $36 Billion backlog of wastewater infrastructure projects; additional treatment for pharmaceuticals would be on top of that.  
I hear the comments that just because most of the drugs come from humans, that we should not focus on other sources.  I disagree.  I believe that if we can reduce the levels through the control of sources such as household and institutional flushing, that we would be irresponsible if we did not address those sources. We see source control (through reduced flushing) as a first step while other options such as "greener" drugs and more efficacious treatment can be developed.
Scott J. Stoner
Chair, NYSDEC Pharmaceuticals Work Group
Scott J. Stoner, M.S.
Chief, Standards and Analytical Support Section
Bureau of Water Assessment and Management
Division of Water
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY  12233-3502

phone: 518-402-8193
fax 518-402-9029
email: sxstoner at gw.dec.state.ny.us
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