Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Prescription Drugs in Drinking Water: Guest Blog

A Guest Blogger from Sacramento, CA. writes...

"I recently heard an interview [with an employee from The Groundwater Foundation] on the radio. She repeated the mantra prevalent in the municipalities and administrative circles that cleanup of the water is impracticably expensive. The place to address the problem is with the sewage discharges, not water treatment for drinking as she seemed to imply, and I beg to differ about cost. Combine wetland treatment with reverse osmosis and you greatly lower the costs, while preventing the accumulation of drugs, nitrates, chloride and other salts in our water supplies -groundwater and surface water- in the first place. "

"The California Central Valley has perfect conditions for such a solution and a pressing need unacknowledged by the state water regulatory boards. To counter this there is also a pressing need for a cost study showing practical cost levels rather than the extreme one usually referred to which calls for reverse osmosis of the sewage discharge directly, without wetland. The state here is -- by policy -- now directing new urban sewage discharges to land over our aquifer and they will foul it in short order unless compelled or persuaded to change. Can you help?"

1 comment:

Rachael Herpel said...

To put my comments in context - for the many groundwater systems that currently do not treat at all, I think adding treatment specifically for the trace amounts of PPCPs now being found in drinking water sources is both unnecessary and cost prohibitive. As far as the potential for these compounds to be removed through comparatively low cost wastewater treatment technologies - please tell me more! Since PPCPs are generally added to the environment via wastewater, I agree that wastewater treatment is where the most high impact and efficient progress in tackling this issue will be made.

That said - there is much work that may be done NOW to reduce the likelihood that PPCPs will enter water supplies. As part of a project implemented in 2007, The Groundwater Foundation developed a number of educational tools for anyone who would like to initiate a PPCP-related dialogue in their community or organize a PPCP take-back event. Please visit to download free copies of these tools. Print copies of a public information poster in both English and Spanish are also available for purchase through our catalog.

No doubt as more becomes known about the impact of PPCPs in drinking water and the environment, more opportunities for action and change will present themselves. To stay in touch with the latest in the "PPCP community," I recommend signing on to the Pharmwaste Digest listserve by visiting