California water reuse debate shifts to endocrine disruptors: WERF research may provide answers

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November 5, 2001 — The South Bay Water Recycling Project, begun in 1995, provides the California cities of San Jose, Santa Clara, and Milpitas with millions of gallons of recycled water per day.

Recent moves to expand this recycled water network have raised questions about the presence and effect of endocrine disruptors in recycled water. While stakeholders in these and other areas are seeking answers about endocrine disruptors, two WERF projects are beginning to explore some of these very topics.

One project, "The Use of Bioassays and Chemical Measurements To Assess the Removal of Endocrine-Disrupting Compounds in Water Reclamation Systems" (project number 01-HHE-20-T), aims to improve current understanding of removal of endocrine-disrupting chemicals during water reclamation processes.

This project will employ bioassays in studying the removal and/or inactivation of endocrine-disrupting compounds by various unit operations.

Treatment facilities that can test stage by stage in this manner will be better able to tailor their processes to eliminate endocrine disruptors.

Another project, "Evaluation and Testing of Bioassays for Pharmaceutics in Reclaimed Water" (project number 01-HHE-21-T), seeks to test laboratory techniques for detecting the presence and biological effect of pharmaceutics in reclaimed water. This research is the first step in analyzing the risk to public and ecological health posed by exposure to these compounds.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals which interfere with those glands and hormones that guide the development, growth, reproduction, and behavior of humans and wildlife. According to the U.S. EPA, "Compelling evidence has accumulated that endocrine systems of certain fish and wildlife have been affected by chemical contaminants, resulting in developmental abnormalities and reproductive impairment. However, the relationship of human diseases of the endocrine system and exposure to environmental contaminants is poorly understood and scientifically controversial."

Because of the potentially serious consequences of human and animal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, Congress included specific language on endocrine disruption in the Food Quality Protection Act and amended Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996.

For more information, visit WERF's web site at

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