PPCPs, Chemical Security and Stormwater News Presage Active Spring

Pharmaceutical residues in drinking water grabbed headlines in March as a report by the Associated Press garnered widespread media attention.

by Carlos David Mogollón

Pharmaceutical residues in drinking water grabbed headlines in March as a report by the Associated Press garnered widespread media attention. The topic, of concern because of endocrine disruptors in pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs), was among “Contaminants of Emerging Concern” highlighted in a WEF conference of the same name last summer. While potential toxicity may vary, it should be noted quantities discussed are in the ppb/ppt range. As the story, detailed on p. 11, gained traction, organizations and companies issued press releases (see our website), many taking advantage to stress their product’s or service’s ability to address the problem whether monitoring for such trace elements or their ability to remove them. On a more positive note, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) joined the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and American Pharmacists Association (APhA) in an alliance to help protect the nation’s fish and aquatic resources from improper medication disposal. Recall that about 40-60% of global industry revenues are generated in North America by the top 10 drug firms, which made $382 billion in 2006 – while the industry was set to spend nearly $60 billion on R&D in 2007, $3 billion over 2006 levels. And, with stories of three-legged frogs and hermaphrodite amphibians, the issue of PPCPs isn’t likely to go away soon as exemplified by AwwaRF’s recent RFPs request to divvy up $4 million in research grants – three of 15 involved PPCPs.

From our “Regulatory Reports” columnist, Pat Crow this month we find out that Washington water industry lobbyists were working to reverse a legislative language that – for the first time – would regulate water and wastewater utilities under anti-terrorism provisions. The bill mostly covers chemical manufacturers but would include utilities if they used a specific quantity of a particular chemical that could damage public health if released or were near population centers. The bill was pending before the House Homeland Security Committee. AWWA President Nilaksh Kothari said the House bill “unnecessarily duplicates existing federal, state, and local chemical security/chemical regulations,” noting water utilities aren’t chemical plants and “use certain chemicals only because they are necessary for water or wastewater disinfection.” The bill, already approved by a subcommittee, also hit another sore point. It would allow Department of Homeland Safety officials to mandate that water utilities switch to alternative processes that use less dangerous chemicals (buzzword: “inherently safer technology”) to enhance safety/security. This prompted the AMWA to warn that could make it harder for utility managers to properly disinfect their water.

Meanwhile, among “Recent Additions” to the EPA Office of Water and its Enforcement Compliance webpages – www.epa.gov/water/new.html and www.epa.gov/compliance/index.html – there were a couple of items of interest to industrial clients:

• March 24: More Spills from Greka – EPA ordered Greka Oil & Gas Inc. to comply with the Federal Water Pollution Control Act at its Williams B. Lease Tank Farm, or face fines of up to $32,500 per day, for each violation. It’s the fourth EPA enforcement order issued to Greka since January.

• March 1: Region III Stormwater Fact Sheets – Four fact sheets (evaluating municipal stormwater programs, funding such programs, incorporating environmentally sensitive development, and understanding impaired waters and TMDL requirements) are available to help cities in developing and enforcing such programs.

Earlier “Recent Additions” on the Office of Water webpage also focus on a Low Erosivity Waver (LEW) Calculator for construction operators to apply for an NPDES waiver for small construction sites if they have a low R factor – R representing erosivity. Another offers a “Green Infrastructure Action Strategy” developed by a coalition that includes the Association of State & Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators, NACWA, EPA, American Rivers and NRDC. And lastly an “Urban BMP Performance Tool” is available online now providing stormwater professionals with easy access to about 220 studies assessing performance of over 275 BMPs, including retention and detention ponds, biofilters, grassed filter strips, porous pavement, wetlands, etc.

Carlos David Mogollón, Managing Editor

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