Water & Health – Simply Put
- Water contamination & your health – in 2006, water borne diseases world-wide were estimated to cause 1.8 million deaths annually, while about 1.1 billion people lacked proper drinking water. With lower legal standards for ‘safe’ water, sewage sludge liquids & effluence avoid expense and responsibility for industries and municipalities.
- Dilution does not work – for pollutants, including bacteria and viruses. When mixed together, they often grow stronger, creating new pollution contaminants and antibiotic resistance. Sludge industry funded studies recognizing bacteria regrowth within 20 minutes of treatment.
- Drugs in national water supplies – national watershed studies have found pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supply of 28 major metro areas for 41 million Americans – there are no standards, no mandates, no controls to test, treat or limit pharmaceuticals in water.
- Arsenic found in US drinking water – adds to increases in diabetes as well as affecting lungs, skin and kidney cancer, internal bleeding and heart damage, kidney and liver failure, and birth defects.
- Sexual abnormalities downstream – world-wide, scientists have found sexual abnormalities in animals exposed to sewage liquid effluence, pointing to the effects of hormone disrupting chemicals and pharmaceuticals introduced into our communities, landscapes and waterways.
- Shellfish are our red flag – studies of effluence effects focusing on bivalve shellfish – like clams, oysters, mussels – found flame retardant concentrations levels within the bodies of the shellfish animals among the highest reported to date worldwide.
- Tainted water = tainted crops – if tainted water is used to irrigate crops, the crops often become internally contaminated. Polluted water used to irrigate or clean produce has been linked to outbreaks of salmonella. Irrigating with contaminated water contaminates your community.
- Industry gets a free pass – California allows oil and gas companies to pump up to 3 billion gallons of oil fracking-contaminated waste water into formerly clean aquifer water sources – and then promotes “water recycling on your crops! Just the tip of the iceberg…
Think you’ll just purchase “clean” water? – once your hometown source or well has become contaminated, purchased bottled water faces the same federal standards for pharmaceuticals as tap water – none.
WATER – DON’T FLUSH WHERE YOU DRINK
Without water, we are without life – so why don’t we treat our water sources and systems with the respect for maintaining our survival? As more viruses, pathogens, hormones, pharmaceuticals and toxic chemicals are discovered in the waters that sustain us, the need to re-evaluate of the role of the bureaucracies that are charged with protecting our health, safety and communities is called into question.
What influences the quality of the water we drink? What does water quality have to do with land application of sewage sludge?
In 2006, water borne diseases world-wide were estimated to cause 1.8 million deaths annually, while about 1.1 billion people lacked proper drinking water. In the United States, federal water planning has been guided by a process that has remained largely unchanged for over 35 years. In fact, the drinking water standards are so lacking in many communities, standards have not changed since the 1970’s when the concept of ‘safe’ drinking water was recognized as an impact to health. Can the US drinking water standards actually provide and guarantee clean, safe drinking water for our citizens?
Federal law permits every business and industry in the United States to dump 33 pounds of hazardous wastes into public sewers every month with no reporting requirements. Within our medical systems, there are 21,000 pharmaceuticals, 1360 unique drugs and 175 high potency steroids. These pharmaceutical remains are found in our human and hospital wastes and concentrate in our waterways and landscapes where sewage sludge solids and liquids are deposited. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the bureaucratic body responsible for regulating the safety of sewage sludge and the waters released back into the environment, offers mere guidelines that are not binding or enforceable – there are no national regulations on the reuse of waste water.
Water returned into the community from waste water treatment plants (WWTP) is called effluence. Waste water effluence is often treated with chemicals upon exiting the treatment plant and poured directly into waterways, streams and rivers or used to water crops or lawns. Some states allow primary treated water for reuse on irrigating crops and some state are unrestricted in their regulations for reuse.
By setting a low legal standard for what is considered ‘safe’ in the water released from the waste water treatment plants back into a community, municipalities avoid the expense of updating facilities and and industries avoid the expense of eliminating toxic products. In spite of known contamination of the waters returning from the waste water treatment plant into the community and environment, lack of regulations and loop holes release industries and municipalities from responsibility of contamination. Unfortunately, the minimal testing requirements for the liquid and solid sludge wastes actually do not guarantee the health or safety of the water being returned to your community.
Everything that goes down the drain of homes, businesses, industries, hospitals and mortuaries collects at the municipal waste water treatment plants with the intention of separating the liquids from the solids in order to “clean” the water and return it to the community. The waste contains contaminants, whether solid or liquid, so the cleaner the released effluent, the dirtier the sewage sludge/ biosolids. The term “biosolids” was created by the sludge industry as a cozier way to promote the byproduct of sludge after they were forced to stop ocean dumping because it was poisoning the oceans. By refusing to create testing requirements and regulations, the bureaucracies and municipalities charged with protecting our health and safety can continue to feign ignorance or innocence. Our waters, landscapes and bodies continue to become more and more contaminated.
The Clean Water Act, helpful in halting the ocean dumping of sewage sludge, stipulates that US EPA must identify and regulate toxic pollutants that may be present in biosolids or sewage sludge at levels of concern for public health and the environment. Initially, many of the scientists involved with the EPA were sincerely determined to pursue the real science that would help protect human and environmental health. Unfortunately, the days of honoring industry-resistant science has disappeared under the weight of financial interests of industries and municipalities.
In 1982, the EPA’s own studies, written by Mark Meckes, expressed concerns about widespread contamination from sewage sludge, “Several researchers have pointed out that waste water, treated or untreated, is a primary contributor of bacteria to the aquatic ecosystem. Other studies have been conducted which demonstrate that significant numbers of mutli-drug-resistant coliforms occur in rivers, bays, bathing beaches and coastal canals. Waters contaminated by bacteria capable of transferring drug resistance are of great concern since there is the potential for transfer of antibiotic resistance to a pathogenic species. ”
The EPA agency conducted 2006 analysis of sewage sludge samples for 145 compounds, 11 flame retardants, 72 pharmaceuticals, and 25 steroids and hormones. Despite the prevalence of toxic chemicals in the environment and their potential adverse impacts to human health and the environment, including heavy metals, steroids, pharmaceuticals and antibacterials like triclocarban and triclosan, the EPA maintains that it is not appropriate to speculate on the significance of the results at this time. Independent scientific research shows these widely used antimicrobial chemicals are contaminating drinking and surface waters, as well as potentially impacting human and environmental health. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) studies have also found that triclosan is one of the most detected pharmaceutical chemicals in U.S. surface waters.
The antibiotic, ofloxacin, had the third highest concentration. Why does this matter? Because the known toxins and antibiotics found by the EPA in sewage sludge have no regulations, remain untested for the impact on human health and are introduced into our food and water supply through reintroduction into waterways and sewage sludge land application as a fertilizer option. Instead, the EPA maintains that the minimal testing requirements of nine elements – arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, zinc – and two pathogens – salmonella OR E. coli – are sufficient in “estimating” our health risk. No federal, state or government agency has ever conducted conclusive scientific studies that prove pouring known toxic waste on our food, water and communities is safe.
WAR ON DRUGS?
PHARMACEUTICALS & ENDOCRIN DISRUPTORS
The endocrine system is the system of glands and hormones in the human body that regulates bodily functions including growth, response to stress, rates of metabolism, intelligence and behavior, and sexual development, behavior and the ability to reproduce. When ‘endocrine disruptors’ are introduced into our physical bodies and the environment that grows our food and water, they ‘disrupt’ or upset the hormonal balance that the body needs to function properly. Examples of endocrine disruptors infiltrating our water sources, such as displaced pharmaceuticals and chemical waste, are numerous and relentless.
World-wide, scientists have found sexual abnormalities in wild animals exposed to sewage effluence and industrial contaminants. Repeatedly, scientists are discovering sexually abnormalities, especially in male species, of animals like frogs, fish and alligators. The effects of hormone disrupting chemicals and pharmaceuticals introduced into our communities, landscapes and waterways are becoming apparent. In 2008, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported findings of genital defects in baby boys doubled in the last 30 years, while a 2007 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism notes a drop in testosterone levels in American men – both are related to environmental exposures.
At hospitals, the EPA has sighted about three dozen specific drugs as hazardous waste. Though their dangers are acknowledged, the rules for special disposal have been casually observed, with many hospitals still dumping certain hazardous pharmaceuticals into their garbage or down the drains. In spite of the introduction of newer drugs, including toxic chemotherapy agents, there are no requirements to clean this waste from our waterways. There are not even requirements to monitor for them. Though pharmaceutical sales are rising, water plants that cleanse sewage or drinking water are not required to remove drugs.
National watershed studies have found pharmaceuticals in the watersheds of 28 major metro areas. Yet, there are no standards, no mandates, no controls to test, treat or limit pharmaceuticals in water. Think you’ll just purchase “clean” water once your hometown source or well has become contaminated? The bottled water industry faces the same federal standards for pharmaceuticals as tap water – none.
Triclocarban and its cousin triclosan are used in a wide variety of products including antibacterial handsoap, cosmetics, clothing and toys. Washed down drains to WWTP’s, both triclocarban and triclosan are linked to hormonal disruption, in mammals – including humans – where triclosan has also been found in urine, umbilical cord blood and breast milk. Triclocarban is not a registered chemical with EPA, but falls under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported, in a 2006 study, that 75% of triclocarban, a known toxic substance when ingested, passes through the waste water treatment plant and is now traced to contaminating rivers and streams. Who is protecting our water quality?
In 2008, New York Times reported hermaphrodite frogs found in Connecticut, where immature eggs found in the testes become an obvious danger to reproductive success. Along coastal bays and waterways in California, fish have developed liver tumors and the sexual slurring of female reproductive parts found in male species from the chemical nonylphenols, a common ingredient in detergents, cosmetic products, and spermicides.
The Los Angeles Times brought a startling discovery to the public’s attention in 2005: During a small monitoring survey off the coast of Southern California, scientists found male flatfish with female characteristics. The intersex fish were found in the vicinity of the three massive wastewater outfalls that dump treated sewage effluent into the Pacific Ocean and serve the booming metropolis of Los Angeles and adjacent Orange County. As a result, the scientists hypothesized that the discharges − almost 4 billion gallons a day from more than 10 million people − were disrupting the endocrine systems of the fish. At the 2008 annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), where biologist Steve Bay with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) summed
up the 2005 findings:
“We knew that the results were not statistically significant, but all the
intersex fish were found between the Los Angeles and Orange County outfalls” he said. No such sexual defects were found elsewhere along the California coast. Additional studies appeared to support these findings. Two-thirds of the male turbot and sole caught near Orange County’s sewage outfall had egg-producing proteins more commonly found in female fish. Laboratory experiments reproduced these male fish contamination outcomes.
In the mean time, chemicals that mutates and increases potency from mixing with other chemicals at the WWTP are of deep concern in other countries. Both the European Union and Canada have effectively banned or classified “nonylphenol” mutating chemicals as toxic, restricting uses in waterways. In the U.S., allowable levels of nonylphenol are twice the allowable levels of Canada.
One example is the chemical atrazine, a toxin banned in European Union but still used in US as an herbicide. Although found in 2009 drinking water studies of major urban cities, atrazine and dozens of other endocrine disruptors, known to survive the waste treatment only to be re-introduced back into communities through WWTP effluence and sewage sludge ‘fertilizer’.
Investigation have found prescription drugs in the drinking water supplies of 41 million Americans living in 24 major metropolitan areas. These drugs include the hormones found in birth control pills, antibiotics and psychotropic medications. Treatment systems can remove some, but not all of the drugs; in fact, chlorine used to disinfect water can make some drugs more toxic. There are no federal safety limits for medications in water.
Regardless of the scientific findings and the concerns of health professional world-wide, the government has set no national standards for how much of any pharmaceutical is too much in waterways or taps. Drugs in the environment are “not currently a priority” of the National Center for Environmental Health, says spokesman Charles L. Green, at its parent U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can review the environmental impact of new drugs, it has never rejected one on concerns of environmental impact. Most pharmaceuticals are excluded from environmental review on the basis of their presumed low concentrations in water. Even though residues of many types of prescription and over-the-counter drugs have been discovered in watersheds and drinking water systems nationwide, the EPA says it awaits more survey data before considering action.
But even when the EPA says it’s taking action, little is accomplished. The agency analyzed 287 pharmaceuticals for inclusion on a draft list of contaminants to be considered for regulation. Only one, nitroglycerin, which can be used as a drug for heart problems, has been nominated. Asked to explain, an EPA spokesman acknowledged the primary reason for inclusion was its use in making explosives. What is considered ‘clean water’ for our communities, waterways and consumption?
BACTERIA, SALMONELLA & E. COLI
Hospitals discharge considerable amounts of chemicals and microbial agents in their wastewater. Problem chemicals present in hospital wastewater belong to different groups, such as antibiotics, X-ray contrast agents, disinfectants and pharmaceuticals. Many of these chemical compounds resist normal wastewater treatment and none, with the exception of salmonella OR E. coli, are required testing by the EPA.
In 2006, studies funded by the sludge industry Water Environmental Research Foundation (WERF) – formerly known as the Federation of Sewage Workers – noted that biosolids/sludge that were dewatered by centrifuge created a material that passed standard bacteria tests, showed substantial increase in bacterial counts within 20 minutes after dewatering. WERF also released findings that confirm the regrowth of fecal coliform after treatment. Rocket science? Hardly – bacteria regrow after treatment.
According to medical geo-hydrologist Dr. Edo McGowan, “(Bacteria) end up in surface waters where they can influence the aquatic ecosystem and interfere with the food chain. Humans are particularly exposed by the drinking water produced from surface water. Microbial agents of special concern are multi-resistant microbial strains. The latter are suspected to contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance.”
The development of antibiotic resistance within sewer plants is well known. Dr. Amy Pruden, of Colorado State University, has presented solid work – for which she received the highest US civilian national award in 2006 – demonstrating that the antibiotic resistant genes developed within sewer plants pass into the environment in spite of chlorination. These antibiotic resistant genes are picked up in fresh water intakes, pass through drinking water treatment chlorination and filtration and end in the potable water supply. Dr. Edo McGowan, Dr. Amy Pruden, and Dr. Joan B. Rose, of Michigan State University, all served on a WERF/US EPA expert team looking at the subject of pathogens in sewage sludge/biosolids.
“Testing of finished recycled water demonstrated that the water had acquired antibiotic resistance … Many of the emerging contaminants that one reads about are sewered in abundance by industry,” says Dr. McGowan. “Unfortunately, what we are facing is now a major biological, not chemical issue. That issue is antibiotic resistance and increased virulence.”
Researchers at the University of Georgia in Athens (UGA) report a rise of salmonella in rivers and streams after rains carry contaminated runoff from landscapes. 79 percent of water sampled from rivers and streams in southern Georgia tested over a one year time frame contained salmonella, with the highest concentration found in the steamy summer months. Salmonella bacteria is also responsible for food poisoning of citizens throughout America.
“If the (tainted) water is used to irrigate crops, it would likely contaminate the crop,” says Michael Doyle, director of UGA’s Center for Food Safety. Polluted water used to irrigate or clean produce has been linked to outbreaks of salmonellosis, the infection caused by salmonella.
Studies funded by sludge industry recognize the limitations of their own products and the false marketing of ‘stabilized’ sewage sludge from waste water treatment plants. Excellent scientific studies and warnings by awarded, independent scientists, like Dr. David Lewis formerly with the EPA, are ignored. Regardless of WERF’s finding, the industry and bureaucracy continues resist responsibility for real safety to the America public. What are the implications of the direct deposit of our human viruses and infectious material where we eat, drink and live and who is really looking out for our long-term health and safety?
Terms like ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ have suffered the linguistic ‘slight-of-hand’ as chemical and industrial interests ‘greenwash’ America’s vocabulary for monetary gain. For instance, arsenic and lead are natural, organic compounds. We know both cause negative, even deadly, health affects.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, analyzed research data from 2004, linking arsenic in US drinking water to increases in diabetes. Arsenic also affects nearly all the organs in the body, causing aliments including lung, skin and kidney cancer, internal bleeding and heart damage, kidney and liver failure, and birth defects. The national drinking water standard for the ‘natural’ arsenic is set at a legal level where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated the one in 600 residents of a community could develop bladder cancer over a life time.
In spite of recognition of advances in science and technology that make it possible to strengthen regulations, the EPA stated in 2003, “The agency decided that changes to these standards would not provide a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction.” The EPA has also recognized the hormone-disrupting chemicals must be studied in combination with other toxins, yet refuse to reevaluate their own testing and regulation requirements.
SCIENCE & BUREAUCRACY
Scores of scientists and bureaucrats – including the 2002 National Academy of Sciences – report criticizing the EPA’s out-of-date and inadequate management and enforcement policies regarding sewage sludge.
Scientific proof abounds concerning the dangers of land applying sewage sludge. Studies not funded by the sludge industry or those who would experience a financial loss or gain by “connecting the dots” understand the obvious – pouring known toxic waste on our communities, food and water is an ignorant and short-sighted idea. University of Minnesota scientists Kris McNeill, Bill Arnold and colleagues presented 2009 studies linking PBDE flame retardants exposed to waste water treatment can transform to generate dioxin, a chemical known to cause birth defects, endocrine disruptors and cancer. Experts agree that both the dioxins and the compounds that produce them, hydroxylated PBDEs (OH-PBDEs), could be impacting aquatic wildlife, and humans as well.
Supporting these findings is a report by the U.S. National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA), which documents “that PBDEs are clearly ubiquitous” in U.S. coastal waters. John H. Dunnigan, assistant administrator of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, notes “Scientific evidence strongly documents that these contaminants impact the food web and action is needed to reduce the threats posed to aquatic resources and human health.” Toxicity studies have connected PBDEs to liver, thyroid, and neurobehavioral development impairments and, “show the potential for adverse human health effects.”
The NOAA report of the presence of PBDEs in the U.S. coastal environment is the most through study to date says director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, Susan Shaw. Shaw is the lead author of a 2009 paper documenting the biomagnification of PBDEs in northwest Atlantic marine food chains, including predatory fish and seals.
“It’s logical to assume if you have PBDEs [in wastewater], you’ll have OH-PBDEs…and if the OH-PBDEs are exposed to sunlight, you’re going to get brominated dioxins formed in the water,” Arnold says. And remember, the 2007 EPA “Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey” found flame retardants in every sewage sludge sample test.
The effects of flame retardants and detergents in the environment and the animals that cannot move to safer waters was highlighted in a 2012 publication by Dr. Robert C. Hale, professor of Marine Science at William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. Research focused on identification of pollutants via water and soil contamination tracing effluence, run-off and sewage sludge applications. Effluence effects focused on filter-feeding bivalve shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels) and grazing gastropod (snails, slugs, whelks), collected downstream from textile manufacturing outfalls and other contamination locations. Concentrations levels of varying flame retardants found within the bodies of the bivalves and gastropods were among the highest reported to date worldwide. While certain flame retardants were once thought to be “nonbioavailable and resistant to degradation”, these studies merely add to the body of work proving otherwise. Simply put, contamination builds up in the body – regardless of if you’re a lowly slug or upright human.
The contamination of the environment and the animals that live within those contamination locations point to the need to re-evaluate our regulations that protect policy of people.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE – BUT TOO TOXIC TO DRINK?
Constant pollution comes from constant sources – paved surfaces, overflowing waste water treatment plants, industry, agricultural run-off, legal and illegal dumping of toxic waste into the waters that sustain America. Each individual act of polluting combines with the hazards and chemicals of the next individual act of polluting. In fact, every industry can legally pour 33 pounds of hazardous waste down the drain a month without reporting to any government body. Of course, who’s watching anyway?
At a time when California is experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, California’s Department of Conservation allows the oil and gas companies to pump up to 3 billion gallons of oil fracking-contaminated waste water into formerly clean aquifer water sources.
In hydraulic fracturing operations, aka “fracking”, oil and gas companies use massive amounts of water to force the release of underground fossil fuels. The practice produces large amounts of waste water chocked with known cancer-causing chemicals that must then be disposed of. By allowing industry to “inject” known contaminated liquid waste into our drinking and irrigating water supply, our government bodies are choosing profits over people. Free pass for industry but not for the humans and environment dependent on water for survival. And most states have no regulations concerning fracking fluids to be sent to waste water treatment plants where the contaminants influence both the sewage sludge and the effluence.
Other examples of our constant chemical flush into our waterways include: Dec. 2007 – Merck Pharmaceutical fined $20 million for polluting Delaware River, Philadelphia, PA drinking supply; Nov. 2008 – sludge applied to flood plane area in Prescott, AZ; Nov. 2008 – Tahlequah, OK applies sludge that was tested for salmonella, even as the test failed for fecal coliform; April 2009 – Atlantic State Cast Iron Pipe Company of Phillipsburg, NJ $8 million in fines for contamination of the Delaware River; Sept. 2009 – MRSA found on beaches in Washington state; Oct. 2009 – Thompsonville, NC 15.9 million gallon sewage sludge spill into Yadkin River.
Sadly, these examples are a minute representation of the constant challenges to the health and safety of our water, consider that many cities and municipalities gather their drinking water from the very rivers that receive their sewage treatment effluence. Traces of 56 human and veterinary pharmaceuticals or their byproducts – like the active ingredients in medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems – have been detected in the drinking water of cities like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is one of the most sludged state in the USA, importing sewage sludge from five neighboring states as well as Canada.
Storm water related violations of the Clean Water Act, including overflowing WWTP, pollute waterways and rivers and are the leading cause of impairment to the nearly 40 percent of surveyed U.S. water bodies which do not meet water quality standards. Since the late 1990’s, the federal government has issued consent decrees to numerous wastewater utilities for the occurrence of ‘Sanitary Sewer Overflows’ (SSO). Negotiated consent decrees between major American cities and the federal government to exempt cities from the Clean Water Act and “resolve” SSO-related matters have been coordinated in throughout the country, including: 2002- Baltimore City, Maryland; Mobile, Alabama; Hamilton County, Ohio (Cincinnati); Toledo, Ohio; in 2003 – the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority; the Washington, D.C. Water and Sewer Authority; in 2004 – Los Angeles, California; in 2005 – Knoxville, Tennessee and Baltimore County, Maryland. Who is following the law or intent of the Clean Water Act? Apparently, it’s easier to change the rules than to create safe drinking water.
Cited for failing to comply with federal requirements for land disposal of sludge/biosolids, some municipalities are ‘fined’ for breaking the law. Excessive application of sludge/biosolids can result in nitrate contamination of surface or ground water, as well as expose people and animals to unsafe levels of pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses. The following communities were ‘fined’ for breaking the law:
– Sheffield Utilities, in Sheffield, Ala. (civil penalty of $900)
– Cooper City, Fl. (civil penalty of $3,200)
– City of Miramar, Fl. (civil penalty of $3,000)
– City of Pembroke Pines, Fl. (civil penalty of $3,300)
– City of Perry, Fl. (civil penalty of $1,600)
– St. Lucie County Board of Commissioners, in Fort Pierce, Fl. (civil penalty of $3,000)
– City of Cartersville, Ga. (civil penalty of $900)
– City of Sandersville, Ga. (civil penalty of $900)
– Town of Rutherfordton, N.C. (civil penalty of $900)
“By taking these enforcement actions, we are sending a strong message about the importance of protecting rivers, lakes and streams across the Southeast,” said Stan Meiburg, EPA Region 4 Acting Regional Administrator.
How much was that ‘fine’? For the price of a weekend on the town, your municipality can break the federal Clean Water Act and pour your toxic waste on the land and waterways that sustain us. Ask yourself – are these regulations and fines protecting our health and safety?
RECYCLED: FROM THE TOILET TO THE TAP TO THE TABLE
Recycling waste water has gone on for decades in some areas, especially in the thirsty Southwestern states. Of course, over the years the wastes have gotten more toxic. Instead, the water and waste water industries choose to focus on drought and global warming as it relates to water quantity and quality rather than address their responsibility for creating and maintaining clean, health and safe water supply for all citizens.
In the minds of many, the effluent of sewage and contaminated industrial wastes from vineyards and food processors are safe to recycle with little or no extra treatment. But curious minds hesitate on this line of thinking: there are no requirements to sample for the many chemicals found in recycled waters, therefore those recycling effluence have a legal loop-hole. Remember, the law does not say someone cannot use this water for potable water, so therefore reuse is legal, regardless of if it’s safety or lack of. Efforts to convince acceptance from the American public, rather than pursue the safer and more costly goals of cleaning the water, is the ongoing mantra.
Nationally, Florida is number one in water reuse, followed by Arizona. Water quality challenges differ depending on location: some locations struggle with saltwater brine contamination, while other locations struggle to recharge depleted underground water supplies. Aside from recycled water and wastewater being used for irrigation, the ski industry encourages reuse of waste water to make snow for the ski seasons. Springtime snow melt releases contamination into the local waterways, rivers and drinking supplies.
End pipe analysis is only one factor. What are flow conditions on the way to the aquifer? How do soils and the aquifer chemistry change the wastewater? Some communities and growers encourage recycled water for use on any crops, including organic crops. In Oregon, King County is working with the Department of Agriculture for approval to recycling its effluent for organic crops. One example of organic acceptance of recycled irrigation is Ocean Mist Organics, based in California, growers of most of what goes into your vegetable bin … AND uses 100% recycled water. Are they recycling only food waste water? Are your vegetables grown in waste water from industry?
WANTED – CLEAN, SAFE WATER!
Are waste water treatment plants removing and degrading contaminants or are they creating new chemicals and antibiotic resistant viruses and bacteria?
Some scientists question our disinfection process and how these may be creating more problems, specifically ultra-violet (UV) and chlorine “cleaning” of waste waters. Dr. Edward P. Kolodziej, from the University of Washington, considers these treatment options to be harmful. Dr. Kolodziej has developed equipment that detects multiple chemicals at one time, including chemicals below what has been considered “non-defect (ND)” levels. His research further lowers the ND levels, finding UV and chlorine to treat water can cause problems, rather than solve them.
Although industry and municipality representative are dismissive of the issue of micro amounts, with industry-speaks statements like, “you’d have to live to be 200 to get a tablespoon of the contaminant,” they ignore cumulative and known impacts that some contaminants are more problematic. The goal of the water and waste water industries is to gain public acceptance, by using different language and imagery, such as “wastewater reclamation” instead of “treated sewage.” While dismissing the collective impact of lower doses buildup, these faux scientists ignore the fact that we bathe, drink and cook with the water, and are also experiencing other contaminations like the food we eat and the air we breath. The affects are often heaviest on infants, children, child bearing aged humans, the sick and elderly.
The wastewater industry seems to be the last industry to want to clean up its act. But discharging contaminated waste water effluents back into the community from the WWTP infects the communities, food and water source of America. Science, both inside and outside of the sludge industry, recognize the reality and magnitude of the problem – we are poisoning the very waters that sustain us. It’s no mystery how we have created and introduced new, powerful bacteria and pathogens. It’s no mystery that we have created rampant health challenges by creating environmental Petri dishes of our communities. Our wildlife and landscape are merely the warning system of what we are doing to ourselves.
Since there are no plans to improve our water quality, just more bureaucratic lip service to stall with more “tests”, water regulations have barely budged. There are still no national standards for how much of any given contamination our bodies and environment can ingest before real health and safety become a factor in our survival.
Tell your elected officials to make real laws about the safety of our waters and the sewage sludge wastes that contaminate them. Make the EPA and your state environmental agencies – paid with your tax dollars – accountable for real safety of your community and the water that sustains us. Our very life depends on it.
10 U.S. cities with the worst drinking water
Unknown to most Americans, a surprising number of U.S. cities have drinking water with unhealthy levels of chemicals and contaminants. Texas conducted 22,083 water quality tests between 2004 and 2007 on Houston’s water supply, and found 18 chemicals that exceeded federal and state health levels.
By Douglas McIntyre; DailyFinance
updated 2/3/2011 1:12:23 PM ET 2011-02-03T18:12:23
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Detected at Four U.S. Wastewater Treatment Plants
The incidence of community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) infections is increasing in the United States, and it is possible that municipal wastewater could be a reservoir of this microorganism. To date, no U.S. studies have evaluated the occurrence of MRSA in wastewater. Ninety-three percent and 29% of unique MRSA and MSSA isolates, respectively, were multi-drug resistant.
Goldstein, Micallef, Gibbs, Davis, Xin He, George, Kleinfelter, Schreiber, Mukherjee, Sapkota, Joseph and Sapkota; Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1205436
A PCR-DGGE approach to evaluate the impact of wastewater source on the antibiotic resistance diversity in treated wastewater effluent
Increased incidence of antibiotics in human-affected environments is raising concerns about increase in acquired antibiotic resistance by environmental bacteria. Wastewater collection and treatment systems are likely significant anthropogenic sinks and vectors for antibiotics and associated antibiotic resistance.
Sigala J1, Unc A.
Water Sci Technol. 2012;65(7):1323-31. doi: 10.2166/wst.2012.024.
Persistence of Escherichia coli on injured iceberg lettuce in the field, overhead irrigated with contaminated water
Fresh produce is increasingly implicated in food-related illnesses. Escherichia coli can survive in soil and water and can be transferred onto plant surfaces through farm management practices such as irrigation.
Authors: Barker-Reid, Fiona; Harapas, Dean; Engleitner, Siegfried; Kreidl, Simone; Holmes, Robert; Faggian, Robert; Journal of Food Protection®, Number 3, March 2009, pp. 456-684, pp. 458-464(7) International Association for Food Protection
Pharmaceutical Formulation Facilities as Sources of Opioids and Other Pharmaceuticals to Wastewater Treatment Plant Effluents
National Survey of WWTP Effluent. Five of the seven pharmaceuticals tested were detected in at least one effluent collected from the 23 WWTPs included in the national survey.Concentrations of pharmaceuticals in two wastewater effluents receiving discharges from pharmaceutical formulation facilities are 10−1000 times higher than concentrations measured in typical wastewater effluents.
Phillips, Smith, Kolpin, Zaugg, Buxton, Furlong, Esposito, Stinson Received February 2, 2010. Revised manuscript received April 15, 2010. Accepted May 3, 2010.
Prozac for Fish
Dozens of chemicals that are commonly found in human drugs and cosmetic products are showing up in an unexpected place: the brains of fish in the Puget Sound. Tests of waters downstream from wastewater treatment facilities found 150 different contaminants, 81 of them in wastewater flowing to Puget Sound estuaries.
Janice Kaspersen • March 15, 2016
Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants: Relevance for
Drinking Water Utilities [Project #4113]
The main objective of this project was to assess the relevance of brominated and chlorinated flame retardants for drinking water utilities. Specific objectives were to examine information on the behavior of the most relevant classes of flame retardants during different steps of drinking water treatment, and identify appropriate measures for their elimination during drinking water production.
Frank Sacher and Astrid Thoma; ORDER NUMBER: 4113; May 2011
Silent Spring Institute: Wastewater from Septic Systems
Many septic systems do not rid sewage of pollutants that may be harmful to human health before discharging the sewage to groundwater—and in some cases before it contaminates drinking water wells.
Antibiotic Resistance Genes as Emerging Contaminants: Studies in Northern Colorado
This study explores antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) as emerging environmental contaminants to investigate the occurrence of ARGs in various environmental compartments in northern Colorado, including Cache La Poudre (Poudre) River sediments, irrigation ditches, dairy lagoons, and the effluents of wastewater recycling and drinking water treatment plants.
Pruden, Ruoting, Storteboom, Carlson; Environ. Sci. Technol. 2006, 40, 7445-7450
Vegetables grown with treated wastewater boost human exposure to pharmaceutical contaminants
With freshwater resources dwindling worldwide, the practice of using treated wastewater to irrigate crops is growing – a new study shows that people who ate vegetables grown using such reclaimed water had increased urine levels of carbamazepine, an anti-epileptic drug commonly detected in wastewater.
Alla Katsnelson, special to C&EN; Volume 94 Issue 16 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: April 18, 2016 | Web Date: April 14, 2016
Human Exposure to Wastewater-Derived Pharmaceuticals in Fresh Produce: A Randomized Controlled Trial Focusing on Carbamazepine.
Fresh water scarcity has led to increased use of reclaimed wastewater as an alternative and reliable source for crop irrigation. This study demonstrates that human exposure to xenobiotics occurs through ingestion of reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce, providing real world data which could guide risk assessments and policy designed to ensure the safe use of wastewater for crop irrigation.
Paltiel O, Fedorova G, Tadmor G, Kleinstern G, Maor Y, Chefetz B; Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Apr 19;50(8):4476-82. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b06256. Epub 2016 Apr 7.
In situ accumulation of HBCD, PBDEs, and several alternative flame-retardants in the bivalve and gastropod.
Alternative brominated flame-retardants are now being detected in the environment. Filter-feeding bivalve – like clams and freshwater snails – collected downstream from a textile manufacturing outfall. Despite different feeding strategies, the bivalves and gastropods exhibited similar flame-retardant water and sediment accumulation factors.
La Guardia MJ1, Hale RC, Harvey E, Mainor TM, Ciparis S; Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Jun 5;46(11):5798-805. doi: 10.1021/es3004238. Epub 2012 May 9.
California Farmers Are Watering Their Crops With Oil Wastewater, And No One Knows What’s In It
California farmers finding water in unexpected places — like Chevron’s Kern River oil field, which has been selling recycled wastewater from oil production to farmers in California’s Kern County. Water Defense, an environmental group, have found high levels of acetone and methylene chloride — compounds that can be toxic to humans — in wastewater from Chevron used for irrigation purposes.
by Natasha Geiling May 5, 2015 9:28 am
Hazard Assessment of Chemical Additives Used in Oil Fields that Reuse Produced Water for Agricultural Irrigation, Livestock Watering, and Groundwater Recharge in The San Joaquin Valley of California
This report contains preliminary findings of chemical additives used in the oilfields from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in California. Assessments disclose acute mammalian and ecological toxicity, biodegradability, bioaccumulation potential, carcinogenicity, and whether chemicals are included on State or Federal chemical advisory lists. A total of 173 chemical constituents were identified by unique name or Chemical Abstracts Services Registry Number (CASRN). Of these 173 chemicals, 66 (38%) were classified as “trade secret” or did not have an associated valid CASRN and could not be positively identified. The remaining 107 chemicals (62%) were identified by CASRN, a definitive identifier, and could therefore be further evaluated for physical, chemical, and toxicological properties.
Seth B.C. Shonkoff, PhD, MPH; William T. Stringfellow, PhD; Jeremy K. Domen, MS
PSE Healthy Energy, Inc., Oakland, CA; Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley; Earth & Environmental Sciences Area; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Ecological Engineering Research Program, University of the Pacific
Technical Report September 2016
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