The Pure Water Occasional for September 9, 2013

 With  articles about drugs in the great lakes and the chemical make-up of urine, plus links to the week's leading water news stories.  Also, a look at Pure Water Products' Single Tank Aeration units. 

Drugs found in Lake Michigan, miles from sewage outfalls

By Brian Bienkowski

Environmental Health News

Prescription drugs are contaminating Lake Michigan two miles from Milwaukee’s sewage outfalls, suggesting that the lake is not diluting the compounds as most scientists expected, according to new research. This ability of the drugs to travel and remain at relatively high concentrations means that fish and other aquatic life are exposed, so there could be “some serious near-shore impacts,” said Rebecca Klaper, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In addition, Milwaukee draws its drinking water from Lake Michigan, although no pharmaceuticals have been detected in the city’s water. The researchers reported that 14 of the chemicals “were found to be of medium or high ecological risk,” and that the concentrations “indicate a significant threat to the health of the Great Lakes.” Nevertheless, it is not clear what, if any, effects the drugs are having on fish and other creatures in Lake Michigan.

Prescription drugs are contaminating Lake Michigan two miles from Milwaukee’s sewage outfalls, suggesting that the lake is not diluting the compounds as most researchers expected, according to new research.

“In a body of water like the Great Lakes, you’d expect dilution would kick in and decrease concentrations, and that was not the case here,” said Dana Kolpin, a U.S. Geological Survey research hydrologist based in Iowa.

It is not clear what, if any, effects the drugs are having on fish and other creatures in Lake Michigan. But this ability to travel and remain at relatively high concentrations means that aquatic life is exposed, so there could be “some serious near-shore impacts,” said Rebecca Klaper, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and senior author of the study published in the journal Chemosphere.

In addition, Milwaukee draws its drinking water from Lake Michigan, although no pharmaceuticals have been found in the city’s water, according to Milwaukee Water Works.

The scientists tested effluent from two sewage outfalls and water and sediment from Lake Michigan (up to two miles from the outfalls) for 54 chemicals used in pharmaceuticals and personal care products.

Twenty-seven chemicals were found in the lake, with four found most frequently: an antidiabetic drug called metformin, caffeine, the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole and triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal compound found in some soaps, toothpastes and other consumer products.

“Wastewater treatment plants are simply not designed to remove these chemicals,” Klaper said. “This tells us we shouldn’t assume that dilution solves the problem of putting these into the environment.”

Metformin was detected at the highest levels – up to 840 parts per trillion one mile from the outfalls, and up to 160 parts per trillion two miles away.

The researchers reported that 14 of the chemicals “were found to be of medium or high ecological risk,” and that the concentrations “indicate a significant threat to the health of the Great Lakes, particularly near shore organisms.”

Of those, triclosan has been the most researched; it has proven acutely toxic to algae and can act as hormone disruptor in fish.

“You’re not going to see fish die-offs [from pharmaceuticals] but subtle changes in how the fish eat and socialize that can have a big impact down the road,” said Kolpin, who did not participate in the study. “With behavior changes and endocrine disruption, reproduction and survival problems may not rear their ugly head for generations.”

Previous research has linked other pharmaceutical drugs in fish to slower reaction times to predators, altered eating habits and anxiety.

There is a lot of research measuring pharmaceuticals in water, so “now we need to figure out what impact they may have,” Kolpin said.

“The problem is the effluent and water don’t have one compound but a chemical mixture soup,” Kolpin said. “It’s going to be hard to tease out which of these compounds may do harm” to people or fish.

Pharmaceutical and personal care product compounds are found in wastewater around the world. Studies have consistently found prescription drugs in drinking water at parts-per-trillion levels. U.S. Geological Survey scientists sampled 74 waterways used for drinking water in 25 states in 2008 and found 53 had one or more of the three dozen pharmaceuticals they were testing for in their water. The compounds mostly get into sewage through people excreting them.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers pharmaceuticals an “emerging concern,” and has concluded that the chemicals may pose risks to wildlife and humans. There are currently no federal regulations of the compounds in waste or drinking water. However, 12 pharmaceuticals are currently on the EPA’s Contaminant Candidate List, which are chemicals that may require regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“You cannot blame the wastewater plants, they’re not out of compliance and there’s no incentive to start changing their technologies,” Kolpin said.

Klaper said the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District does a much better job than other plants at removing many compounds. But they’re just not equipped to handle the volume.

“For example, we found quite a bit of caffeine in the lake, and they’re removing about 90 percent of the caffeine that comes in for treatment,” she said. “They can’t remove everything.”

With pharmaceuticals increasingly flowing into plants, capturing the compounds is going to be a challenge for not only Milwaukee but for treatment plants across the country, said Kevin Shafer, executive director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

“At the time wastewater treatment plants were developed, these compounds were just not an issue,” Shafer said.

Shafer and colleagues are researching ways to bolster their pharmaceutical capture, including testing carbon filter technology.

Shafer said the carbon filters have a “good response but are very expensive and geared toward lower flows at smaller treatment plants.” The department also has collected 21 tons of unused medicines since 2006 so people don’t flush them down toilets.

There won’t be a silver bullet to tackle pharmaceuticals in wastewater, said Olga Lyandres, a research manager with the Alliance for the Great Lakes organization. But, with about 40 million people relying on the Great Lakes for drinking water, there needs to be more urgency in keeping these compounds out of the lakes.

“The development and use of new technologies needs to be a priority,” she said. “And we really need increased monitoring by the facilities and the EPA to keep tabs on what’s there.”

The new study hopefully will spur awareness of the water cycle in the region, Lyandres said.

“People should reconsider the notion that the Great Lakes are so large that this stuff cannot hurt us,” she said. “The stuff you excrete and wash down the drain ends up in the same bodies of water that you drink out of.”

Article Source: Environmental Health News.

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What’s in Urine? 3,000 Chemicals and Counting

by Gahar Gholipouor

 Looking for an encyclopedia of pee? Scientists have laid out the entire chemical composition of human urine, revealing that more than 3,000 compounds are found in the fluid, and have published it all in an online database.

In the study, which took seven years to complete, the researchers found that at least 3,079 compounds can be detected in urine. Seventy-two of these compounds are made by bacteria, while 1,453 come from the body itself. Another 2,282 come from diet, drugs, cosmetics or environmental exposure (some compounds belong to more than one group).

“Urine is an incredibly complex biofluid. We had no idea there could be so many different compounds going into our toilets,” said study researcher David Wishart, professor of biology and computing science at the University of Alberta.

The complete list of all metabolites that can be detected in human urine using current technologies has been placed into an online public database called the Urine Metabolome Database.The word metabolome refers to the complete collection of metabolites, which are the products of metabolism and include hormones, vitamins and other molecules.

A favorite among fluids

“Urine has long been a ‘favored’ biofluid among metabolomics researchers,” because it is sterile and can be obtained easily in large volumes, the scientists wrote in their study published September 4 in the journal PLOS ONE.

However, the chemical complexity of urine has made it a difficult substance to fully understand, the researchers said. As a biological waste material, urine typically contains metabolic breakdown products from a wide range of foods, drinks, drugs, environmental contaminants, waste metabolites of the body and bacterial by-products.

Compared to other body fluids such as saliva or cerebrospinal fluid, urine contains about five to 10 times more compounds, and shows a larger chemical diversity, the researchers found. The compounds found in human urine fall into 230 different chemical classes.

“Given that there are only 356 chemical classes in the entire human metabolome, this certainly demonstrates the enormous chemical diversity found in urine,” the researchers said.

The researchers also found that more than 480 compounds in urine were not previously reported to be in blood, contrary to the long-standing idea that the collection of chemicals in urine is a subset of compounds found in the blood.

Why so many chemicals?

“The fact that so many compounds seem to be unique to urine likely has to do with the fact that the kidneys do an extraordinary job of concentrating certain metabolites from the blood,” the researchers said.

To find the chemicals in urine, the researchers used a variety of techniques, including nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography. They analyzed urine samples from 22 healthy people, and scoured more than 100 years of scientific literature about human urine to supplement their findings.

The chemical composition of urine  may be of interest to physicians, nutritionists and environmental scientists because it reveals medical conditions, as well as information about what a person has consumed, and what chemicals he or she as been exposed to in the environment.

The database of urine chemical composition will continue to grow as new techniques and instruments are developed to identify additional compounds, the scientists said.

“This is certainly not the final word on the chemical composition of urine,” Wishart said.

Source: Live Science.

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This Week's World Water News Roundup

A lot more of the persistent bad news from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Crumbling infrastructure in the US. Drugs in sewage, drugs in drinking water. Fish poisonings. Chlorine drainage into streams. Mercury in streams. Increased re-use of wastewater. How climate change affects water. Agent Orange is still around. More bad news about “flushable personal wipes.” As always, the drought and ever-intensifying water shortage.  Plus, much more.


U.S. Forest Service set to decide on fracking in George Washington National Forest. By the end of the month, the U.S. Forest Service is expected to decide whether to ban or allow hydraulic fracturing under the George Washington National Forest’s new, 15-year management plan. The decision will settle a raging dispute between conservationists and the oil and gas industry.


As US leaders deplore the use of chemical weapons in the Middle East, the London Daily Mail has released pictures of deformed children born decades after the US military sprayed Vietnam with the herbicide called Agent Orange. The Red Cross estimates that 150,000 Vietnamese children suffer from birth defects caused by Agent Orange. Please read the story:

 Heartbreaking portraits of Vietnamese children suffering from devastating effects of toxic herbicide sprayed by U.S. Army 40 years ago. They were born decades after American forces had sprayed the herbicide dioxin Agent Orange in South Vietnam, but some children living in the region today continue to suffer from the horrifying effects of the chemical.

Protecting our water resources. In Malaysia, the oil spillage at Sungai Selangor which resulted in a major water disruption in the Klang Valley  has shown just how vulnerable and exposed our water sources are.

In drought, water war in California fought underground. Throughout the Central Valley - one of the world's most productive agricultural regions - farmers, residents and cities have seen their wells go dry. Experts say water supplies have been strained by growing city populations and massive tracts of newly planted orchards and vineyards.

Scientists' water filter to aid poor. A water purification filter created by Australian scientists has pipes just 10,000th the width of a human hair and could provide relief to millions of people without access to safe drinking water.

Florida lake cleanup is expensive and messy. A black bag that resembles a gargantuan beached whale in Winter Park's Mead Garden. Slime that bubbles like "sick oatmeal" in downtown Orlando's Lake Lucerne. These are two examples of the same lake cleanup problems in Florida communities.

Sewage spills continue despite EPA order. Lehigh County municipalities and sewer-service providers have collectively responded by spending nearly $25 million during the past four years to end what the EPA calls "sewer overflows." But they say they are unlikely to meet the deadline, even though they could face stiff penalties for future spills.

Flushable’ personal wipes clogging sewer systems, utilities say. Sewer agencies in the Washington area and across the country say the rapidly growing use of pre-moistened “personal” wipes — used most often by potty-training toddlers and people seeking what’s advertised as a more “thorough” cleaning than toilet paper — are clogging pipes and jamming pumps.

South Korea bans fish imports from Japan's Fukushima region. South Korea has banned all fish imports from a large area of Japan in response to growing concern over the possible environmental impact of recent leaks of highly toxic water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

PCBs found at other sewer sites in South Carolina. Hazardous chemicals have been located at several other waste oil hauling and storage companies across the Upstate, as state and federal agencies continue to investigate possible illegal dumping in three sewer districts.

Enbridge dredging in full swing in Calhoun County. Large pipes, buoys and pontoon boats have been placed throughout sections of the Kalamazoo River as Enbridge Inc. works to fulfill an order by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do additional cleanup

Compost pile turns into heap of trouble. Forester Peter Olsen knows the rules. One he overlooked has given new ammunition to opponents of the city's plans to compost sewage sludge at the Kodiak Island Borough landfill.

Ohio River commission may relax mercury pollution rules. The eight-state commission that sets water quality standards for the Ohio River wants a two-year delay on enforcement of a more stringent mercury standard while it considers relaxing those rules.

California tsunami would have costly aftermath. The fearsome aftermath of a tsunami striking California might cost at least $3.4 billion to repair, but neither of the state's nuclear power plants would be damaged, suggests a new analysis that could help officials and the public prepare for a tsunami and reduce risks before any such disasters happen.

Climate change threatens Caribbean's water supply. Experts are sounding a new alarm about the effects of climate change for parts of the Caribbean — the depletion of already strained drinking water throughout much of the region

Chinese chemical company apologizes for fish-killing toxic spill. A Shenzhen-listed company identified by authorities as being responsible for a toxic spill that killed thousands of river fish apologized on Friday and said it would punish those responsible.

Private Massachusetts water plant shut down. A private wastewater treatment plant was shut down Thursday after city officials decided it has done too little too late to stem foul odors that have blown into nearby neighborhoods periodically for three years.

Policymakers on the brink of algae action need to get it done. The U.S and Canada International Joint Commission last week released a draft report on Lake Erie that prescribes strong medicine for the Ohio agricultural community, the primary source of phosphorous runoff that leads to algae blooms.

World set to use much more wastewater. The world is set to use far more treated wastewater to help irrigate crops and feed a rising population as fresh water supplies dry up, a team of U.N.-backed experts said on Thursday.

Cold feat: How Japan plans to contain Fukushima’s nuclear contamination by building a 1.4-kilometre ‘ice wall.' The Tokyo Electric Power Co. had its chance, and now the Japanese government is stepping in: The government announced it will spend a half-billion dollars trying to stabilize the Fukushima nuclear plant after the 2011 triple meltdown.

Dead Fish in Chinese River

Chemical pollution poisons fish in Hubei. Over 100 tons of dead fish has been found in several sections of the Fuhe River, in Hubei Province, since Monday afternoon.

Advocates say Gov. Rick Scott's $37 million pledge to fix springs not enough. With his sleeves rolled up, Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday that he is steering $37 million to 10 projects designed to cut pollution and boost the flow of some of the state's most popular springs.

Avon Park stops water fluoridation. Citing "no quality control," City Manager Julian Deleon has stopped the injection of fluoride into the city's drinking water.

Contaminated reservoir drives Venezuelans to bottled water. The socialist revolution implemented by late President Hugo Chavez redirected funds from state-owned companies to reduce poverty and widen access to education, health-care and housing. But basic services have suffered. Blackouts and water cuts have become weekly events in Caracas, and when water does flow, few dare to drink.

Fight over a Florida sewer pipe raises national financial and health issue. Nondescript as it is, the pipe is at the center of one of the biggest fights over climate change in the country. It carries millions of tons of partially treated sewage daily underwater from Miami Beach and miles out to the ocean. Environmentalists fear a direct hit from a strong storm could knock out the pipe, sending raw sewage into Biscayne Bay.

Japan's radioactive water leaks: How dangerous? New revelations of contaminated water leaking from storage tanks at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant have raised fresh alarms. A look at the problem, and the potential risks to fish and the humans who eat them.

Splashing in New York's Hudson River. As the rivers around New York City recover from decades of pollution, New Yorkers are once again taking to the water to swim. "Floating pools," tethered safely to the shore, let swimmers enjoy the waters of the might Hudson without worrying about dangerous currents.

 Single Tank Aeration from Pure Water Products

As a companion to our old faithful AerMax systems, we now feature a good selection of one tank aeration systems.  In these units,  the aeration and filtration functions are performed in the same tank.

Single tank aerators are built around a modified Fleck 2510 SXT control, shown above.  The system provides an excellent and easy-to-maintain solution for residential wells with moderate amounts of  iron, manganese, and/or hydrogen sulfide.

Please get full details from the Pure Water Gazette website.


Thank you for reading.  Please come back next week.


Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime

Model 77: “The World’s Greatest $77 Water Filter”

Sprite Shower Filters: You’ll Sing Better!”

An Alphabetical Index to Water Treatment Products

Our famous whole house Chloramine Catcher

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