Sunday, November 06, 2005

Deliberate Contamination

The news about excreted and discarded pharmaceuticals continues to be alarming:

Water samples taken from rivers and sewer drains in Maine confirmed that at least some drug-related compounds - including two associated with hormone therapies - can be measured here....

Fish downstream of Denver's sewage treatment plant were found to have both male and female sex organs, a mutation scientists linked to the presence of estrogen drugs spilling out of the sewer system. Male fish in the Potomac River in Maryland were recently found carrying eggs, and similar hormonal changes have been reported in fish around the world.
Maine is interested in starting a take-back program for pharmaceuticals, as is the EPA. But in George W. Bush's America, there's no money for such fripperies:
The Legislature passed a first-in-the-nation law last year to enable mail-in collection programs that would gather unused medications for disposal in secure incinerators. The law did not provide any financing to begin the collections, however, and there is still no statewide program or solution. A study panel has recommended that the state find alternative sources of money to implement the law.

The EPA, which continues to research the issue, also is supporting the idea of collections but lacks the funding to create programs.
As valuable as a take-back program would be, it's even more important to remove endocrine disruptors from sewage plant effluent. Not surprisingly, Bush's FY 2005 budget slashed funding for modernized water filtration, and research into endocrine disruptors:
The President's budget has its largest cut in water quality infrastructure funding for reducing sources of pollution. This category includes a broad range of activities, including sewage plants, water purification facilities, and targeted pollution-prevention investments....The largest single reduction is in the Clean Water Act State Revolving Fund (CWASRF), which loans money to states to pay for sewage treatment plants....Specific program targets include research into the effects of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors (down almost $5 million) "pesticides and toxics," (down $7.7 million from the 2004 budget) and "human health and ecosystems," (down $13 million from the 2004 budget).
On the bright side, the EPA did manage to fund a website that warns us about the shocking perils of "water terrorism":
[T]here continues to be concern that water may represent a potential target for terrorist activity and that deliberate contamination of water is a potential public health threat.
What sort of fanatical, dead-hearted fiends would deliberately contaminate America's water? I'll let this final example stand for many:
Weston Wilson, an engineer with the Environmental Protection Agency, has applied for federal whistleblower protection status after opposing his agency's study of the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water quality. Used mostly in the West in coalbed methane drilling, hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and a variety of chemicals deep underground at extremely high pressures to free up oil and natural gas reserves. Halliburton invented the technique, which earns the company $1.5 billion each year -- roughly one-fifth of its energy-related revenue.

In addition to generating profits, though, hydraulic fracturing contaminates drinking water supplies. When local residents began to complain about the pollution, Halliburton and other drilling companies grew concerned that environmental regulations would halt hydraulic fracturing. But in 2001, Halliburton's former chief and the current Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, issued a national energy report that cited the benefits of hydraulic fracturing while omitting health concerns raised by the EPA. The Bush administration subsequently secured a special provision in the energy bill that would exempt hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
If Al-Qaeda does it, it's terrorism. If BushCo does it, it's wise use.


Anonymous said...

So to cut to the chase,in true American fashion, do my 10-Stage drinking water filter, and my shower head charcoal filter do enough to protect me from this gunk?

Obviously we're all part of communities and if the commuinty is made sick we are all sickened...but I'm just wondering about my own little houseen

Phila said...

Yeah, probably. It depends where you are, what kind of sewage treatment plant you have, and so forth. I seriously doubt that drinking water would be a source of, say, synthetic estrogens...the worry there has more to do with sewage plant effluent.

Other endocrine disruptors are going to be considerably harder to avoid ingesting. And as you note, the larger problem is that of community.