Pharmaceuticals in Water

Hi everyone:

Here is a message I sent to Jared Huffman which is a response to a short article about studies of pharmaceuticals in wastewater (see below).  The article is about the findings of two scientists who worked with Santa Rosa and seem to be down playing the significance of chemicals in drinking water supplies. (Don’t be fooled by their comments that the chemicals are in small amounts.  Please read my comments to Jared.)   Notice that one of the scientists casually commented that pollution is just something we have to get used to.  

My note to Jared summarizes the critical points on the issue of drugs in water/wastewater and my concern about State policy to emphasize irrigation with wastewater.  This is also tied in with the current move by our Regional Board to legalize “incidental” runoff  from irrigated wastewater in a current Basin Plan revision.  Comments on this Basin Plan Amendment are due Jan. 29th and I am urging everyone to write a letter about this.   I have also attached a template letter that can be used to help with your own letter.   


Please contact me with any questions.



These are scientists (article below) that the City of Santa Rosa hired to allay concerns about the issue of pharmaceuticals in the environment and drinking water supply.  What is significant here is that they are even finding these substances in the drinking water supply.  They emphasize that the amounts are small but they leave out a few important facts:

No one knows how these chemicals interact with one another nor how they may bioaccumulate in fish and other aquatic life that are then ingested by humans for food.  They don’t mention combined impacts of these substances in water AND food.  

There has also been a lot of evidence, at least on atrazine, that very small doses turn frogs into hermaphrodites,  

They don’t know what the safe levels of these substances are for children.  There is a lot of concern now about the growing rates of autism.  

It is suspected that this malady and many other diseases showing up in younger people (for instance, diabetes) are environmentally caused.  Also, breast cancer in young women and testicular cancer in young men appears to be increasing.  

There is a high rate of cancer in dogs that we don’t hear much about.

The list goes on.  I am disappointed that you don’t want to express any concerns about widespread distribution of recycled water.  At the very least, there needs to be a lot of testing to  see how much of these toxins are in recycled water before they move forward with a lot of expensive pipeline projects.  (Santa Rosa’s is estimated to cost $150 million.)

Also, there is a lot of emphasis now to install drought resistant landscaping.  What is the point of going to a  lot of expense (and energy costs) to install irrigation systems for recycled water, if most landscapes aren’t even going to need it?  In terms of global warming, it would probably be a lot more energy efficient to change landscapes rather than pump wastewater all over the place.

Finally, there was a program recently on KRCB called “Liquid Assets”  that indicated a great need for infrastructure repair (water and wastewater) and the vast amounts of water that is lost on old leaky plumbing.  It would be a lot more sustainable and energy efficient, not to mention healthier to fix the infrastructure we have, focus on conservation and source control, and forget irrigation except in  very limited circumstances.  These high recycling goals by the State are going in the wrong direction.  

Can you or will you do anything about this?  Now is the time.  Once it gets set in concrete (ha, ha), there is no going back.  With health care system a big mess and the economy tanking badly, we can’t afford to make big mistakes now.  Can you lead the way?


PS:  I’m also attachment a letter I recently composed for people to send to the Regional Board about their Basin Plan Amendment to legalize “incidental” runoff in the summer time and allow exceptions to our summer discharge prohibition.  If you feel so inclined, it would be good if you can enter comments.  The deadline is Jan. 29th.