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Discussion on Trace Pollutants in Our Water System


Once the stuff enters the wastestream the only way to remove it is with modern a modern plant. But You are also correct that everyone should  reduce the so-called point source of pollution. We will probably need serious legislation for this to happen on a large scale but many contaminants can be kept out of the wastestream to begin with. All out-of-date or unused pharmaceuticals, for example, should be dropped off at central locations for disposal. In the east Bay, EBMUD has a program where anyone can drop off unneeded drugs at any pharmacy; the point is NEVER flush them down the toilet.

You can use abrasives like BonAmi instead of chlorine cleaners like Comet, etc., and other eco-friendly cleaners. Unfortunately, these actions, although important, have a tiny effect compared to the sheer volume of contaminants we have to deal with.  In Europe you cannot bring a product to market without first demonstrating how it will be disposed of safely. Obviously, we could benefit from this kind of thinking. In the meantime, modern treatment plants work.

If you don’t know about the meeting posted below, and if you have time, you and everyone you know might like to attend and urge Santa Rosa to clean their sewage not partially clean it. Most especially don’t dump this stuff in the Russian or dump it on grapes.




Trace Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Product Residues in Recycled Waters: Occurrence, Fate, Toxicology, and Risk.

During studies related to the IRWP, there has been some concern expressed from the public regarding impacts to human health and the environment associated with trace organic pollutants. As a result, the Board of Public Utilities has requested a Study Session on the latest information available regarding unregulated compounds so that they may make informed decisions. The tentative speakers include Jean Debroux Ph.D., chemical and environmental engineer/scientist with Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, Laura Kennedy, risk analysis specialist with Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, Shane A. Snyder, Ph.D. R&D Project Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority and Dr. Stanley Deresinski MD, and Stanford professor.

The Study Session regarding currently unregulated compounds such as trace pharmaceutical and personal care product residues will be held on April 19th at 1:30 pm in the City Council chamber at 100 Santa Rosa Avenue. The Study Session should last about 90 minutes and is designed to help decision makers in Santa Rosa determine the potential impacts of discharge of excess recycled water to the Russian River and/or its tributaries.

Tami DeVol
Administrative Secretary
Utilities Department
Phone 707 543 3371
Fax 707 543 3399

Yes, this helps.  I thought it was a matter of refraining from using certain products.  But, that isn’t the point.  The point is getting modern treatment plants.  And, hey, I can’t imagine getting people to stop using personal products anyway.

Please keep me posted as to how one pushes for modern treatment plants.

Thank you,

Katy, et. al;

The O.W.L. Foundation has prepared a reader on the subject of partially treated wastewater (it is not recycled water as some claim) and you can download it from our home page (1.3MB PDF). The articles in the reader are from various news sources, scientific abstracts and the last article is a description of Orange County’s modern treatment plant and its advantages. Please feel free to distribute the reader to any interested party.

The main thing to grasp about partially treated sewage is that the risks, which are considerable, are completely unnecessary and avoidable.

Many communities around the world, like Orange County, operate modern treatment plants. These plants remove everything from sewage that is not the molecule H2O. The product is, literally, pure water and nothing else. With pure water you can not only irrigate crops with no risk whatsoever, you can inject pure water into groundwater aquifers and restore damaged levels. Even better, pure water from modern treatment plants will dilute naturally occurring contaminants in groundwater like arsenic, radium, radon, uranium, etc. making the groundwater better quality than before. Pure water also has a high monetary value and can be sold to customers as pure water.

Partially treated sewage is a hard sell and many farmers, grape growers and others quite naturally resist its use and some have gone to court over the issue. “Regular” water currently sold that is extracted from surface sources, like rivers, are routinely decontaminated with chemicals like chlorine. Pure water is pure water.

There are three prominent health concerns about partially treated sewage: 1) drugs, both legal and illegal drugs remain in partially treated sewage; 2) a family of chemicals called phthalates that have virtually the same biological effect on living organisms as the hormone estrogen; and 3) so-called “emerging contaminants”. This category is by far the most worrisome. As you will see in the reader, partially treated sewage contains many diverse chemicals that are reacting in unpredictable ways. For example, Acetaminophen and chlorine can combine to produce two completely new toxicants neither of which were introduced into the wastestream (see article in the reader). So the chemicals left behind in partially treated sewage are reacting in unpredictable ways and producing  even more dangerous compounds.

This last category, emerging contaminants, is important because it proves that no one knows what is in partially treated sewage, nor could anyone know what is in it without accounting for every single chemical constituent and demonstrating every possible permutation—a ridiculously impossible task even with the aid of the largest supercomputer. So anyone who claims that partially treated sewage is safe, for any use, cannot possibly know that as a fact because they cannot account for all the possible emerging contaminants being brewed in this waste, hence the term “witches brew.”

The point is that no one should be asked to take this risk because modern treatment plants can remove everything.

Hope this helps,

HR Down