Water District Treatment Processes Help Remove Traces of Pharmaceuticals

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The Santa Clara Valley Water District has been closely monitoring the recent research on pharmaceuticals finding their way into the nation’s water supply and has tested its raw water supply for traces of pharmaceuticals. In the testing of source water, they found only minute detections of pharmaceuticals.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has been closely monitoring the recent research on pharmaceuticals finding their way into the nation’s water supply and has tested its raw water supply for traces of pharmaceuticals.

According to a new Associated Press study that has been widely reported in the national and local media, pharmaceuticals—including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones—have been found in the country’s drinking water supplies.

With improvement in analytical methods, water professionals are now able to measure pharmaceutical and personal care products at the parts per trillion range, which is equivalent to 1/20th of a drop of water in an Olympic pool.

In the testing of source water, the Santa Clara Valley Water District found only minute detections of pharmaceuticals. Research throughout the world has not demonstrated an impact on human health from pharmaceuticals and personal care products in drinking water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates drinking water, maintains an active program called the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) to identify contaminants in public drinking water that warrant detailed study. The CCL does not currently include any personal care products or pharmaceuticals.

Moreover, recent scientific studies on treatment of some of these pharmaceuticals in water found:

  • Granular activated carbon (GAC) or powdered activated carbon (PAC) are very effective to remove these compounds through adsorption
  • Chlorine can remove some of the compounds through oxidation; and
  • Ozone is capable of removing nearly all of the compounds studied through oxidation.

Public health is of utmost importance to the water district and it uses all these treatment technologies, including the advanced water purification technology known as ozonation.

In addition, the water district just completed construction of a water quality laboratory to ensure that county residents continue to receive some of the most pure and healthy water in the country.

Although testing for pharmaceuticals is still in its early stages, the AP study once again underscores the importance of protecting the precious water resource. The water district will continue to encourage policies that protect source water from contaminants introduced by pesticides, gasoline or industrial products.

While the water district continues to actively address emerging issues, including pharmaceuticals in water, the best and most cost-effective way to ensure safe water at the tap is to keep the source waters clean. The community can assist by following the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which recommends not flushing prescription drugs down the toilet unless the accompanying patient information specifically instructs it is safe to do so.

For more information on this and other water quality issues, contact Susan Siravo at (408) 265-2607, ext. 2290.
To learn more, click on links below:
http://www.epa.gov/ppcp/faq.html
http://www.valleywater.org

The Santa Clara Valley Water District manages wholesale drinking water resources and provides stewardship for the county's watersheds, including 10 reservoirs, hundreds of miles of streams and groundwater basins. The water district also provides flood protection throughout Santa Clara County.

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