“emerging contaminants” and “endocrine interrupters” …

A Perspective … in the end it’s all about disclosure & transparency

If you missed attending this forum you honestly missed receiving very informative information as well as some startling data respecting “emerging contaminants” and “endocrine interrupters” …

This is information that quite frankly most public as well as for-profit-corporate-interest$ do not want disclosed to you …

    What’s in your water…?
    Forum reveals importance of properly treating wastewater that’s recharged into aquifers

by Doug Cook … the Daily Courier …11/13/2010 … 9:56:00 PM

PRESCOTT – As groundwater supplies diminish across the United States, replenishment of those sources with treated wastewater will become increasingly commonplace in the 21st century.

And the case will be no different here in Yavapai County, where persistent drought and an increasingly larger human population will continue to strain the supply.

But now the question is shifting to whether some of our treated wastewater is completely fit for the consumption of humans and aquatic life.

During a Citizens Water Advocacy Group (CWAG) forum titled, “Recharge of Treated Wastewater to Groundwater: What Are the Risks?” at Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation Saturday, several academicians weighed in on that topic in front o f a crowd of 90-plus people. …. http://www.cwagaz.org/ … check this site as a video of the seminar conducted on Saturday will soon be posted … I believe you will find it revealing and perhaps a bit startling …

Per reporter Cook … Much of the conversation centered on so-called “emerging contaminants” in our wastewater. These toxins are broadly defined as any synthetic or naturally occurring chemicals in the water environment for which there are no environmental standards. In addition, they are not commonly monitored, even though they have the potential to harm humans and aquatic life.

While most of our water appears safe to drink thanks to advanced wastewater treatment plants, scientists are concluding that more could be done to protect human health and safety.

Scientists say the difficulty oftentimes for municipalities is determining the best technology or method available to effectively treat and remove so-called Endocrine Disrupting Compounds (EDCs), such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides, from wastewater.

When these compounds are consumed, even in minute amounts over time, scientists are finding that they have the capacity to inhibit, and perhaps even alter, reproductive systems and cycles in humans as well as fish and frogs, among other aquatic animals.

“We are more aware of environmental chemicals because of the better techniques we have for measuring them, such as in parts per trillion and parts per quadrillion,” said Dr. David Quanrud of the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment. “But our understanding of the toxicity of these compounds has not caught up with our ability to measure them.”

A United States Geological Survey (USGS) study of 139 stream sampling sites across the country revealed 95 different EDCs in the wastewater, including substances in laundry detergents, pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals.

Since the capital and operating costs are expensive for advanced wastewater treatment systems, such as reverse osmosis, operators of conventional wastewater treatment plants are forcing themselves to get more creative and efficient.

Since many of these EDCs are being discarded from homes, Dr. Catherine Propper of the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University said it’s important for people to dispose of pharmaceuticals properly through community “take-back” programs, rather than flush them down the toilet. The more pharmaceuticals that don’t make their way into the wastewater treatment system, the better the water quality, she added.

John Calkans, who manages the drinking water section of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said his department regulates 1,600 public water systems that serve some six million people each day.

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act sets standards for water quality, but Arizona has been delegated the authority to oversee this state’s drinking water program.

“Arizona protects groundwater in the same way as drinking water,” Calkans said. “We follow updated standards for both.”

See reporter cook’s article at http://www.dcourier.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1086&ArticleID=87465&TM=33071.17

I write to thank Mr. Cook for this article as well as to add some comments of my own as an attendee to this forum on a past Saturday.

Beginning with Mr. Calkans/ADEQ … as a dutiful soldier he put the best “spin” possible on the manner the agency he represents chooses to utilize to anoint Arizona water as “safe.” There is a bucket of truth in Mr. Calkans choice to describe that ADEQ … “Arizona protects groundwater in the same way as drinking water”… code for they don’t.

And perhaps there is justification inasmuch as the State Legislature has chosen to decrease ADEQ budget by some 65% over the last several years leaving it essentially a neutered and quite ineffective champion of the Arizona environment in general and water specifically.

Mr. Calkans/ADEQ boasted a bit about ADEQ and Arizona having what is known as “primacy” respecting potable (drinking) water systems in Arizona. And were one in the water business that can be a plus as it tends to reduce the “red-tape” water purveyors’ face as it eliminates a need to obtain federal or EPA approval in many cases. On the other hand, given the current quite precarious and tenuous enforcement ability of ADEQ it opens the door even wider for, for-profit-corporate-water-interest$ to manipulate the system at which they are exceedingly proficient.

Mr. Calkans/ADEQ noted that the “operators” of most, but not all, public water systems are “certified.” And they are, however, this certification system has a flaw some believe is intentional, in that they hold the operator accountable and responsible, which most often is some well intentioned employee just trying to do his/her job, but usually the “operator” is NOT given the ability or authority to purchase or cause or bring about operational functions they deem are questionable or missing.

So when the “shit-hits-the-fan” it’s the operator who is chastised, terminated, fired … while the facility owner (public/private) pleads they were not aware or that the information was deliberately withheld from them … sorry but in 99 out of a 100 cases this is pure BS. Generally the facility owner is given a slap on the wrist and a pittance of a monetary fine.

Moreover, Mr. Calkans/ADEQ notes that commercial water purveyors (public/private) are mandated to provide at least once per year to their users a document … Consumer Confidence Reports … which is nothing more than “feel-good” spin, as the users (ie … that’s you & me) actually have zero input into determining what constitutes “safe” water…?

The process to determine what characterizes “safe” water is done behind closed doors by representatives of government, engineers, testing labs, contractors, product vendors without any oversight by John Q Public.

The reality is … your water is SAFE because “we” (those select few) declare it to be … not necessarily because it is actually safe…???

We can criticize, condemn, complain about how ineffective, inefficient perhaps even corrupt an agency like ADEQ appears … but … hold up a mirror and what do you see…?

Though uncomfortable … it is the reflection of an individual ultimately accountable and responsible for the current state of administration of the agency we empowered to be our environmental “watch-dog.”

Allow me to turn my attention to three presenters, at this forum, who for me epitomize the essence of this forum … ie … emerging contaminants” and “endocrine interrupters” …David Quanrud/University of Arizona, Catherine Propper/ Northern Arizona University and Bruce Blumberg/University California – Irvine.

Interestingly they each noted the value information they obtained from a book … Our Stolen Future … authored by Dr. Theo Colborn … Dianne Dumanoski … Dr. John Peterson Myers … as well as acknowledging the contribution of the late Rachel Carson’s book … Silent Spring …

Before we continue further it would be wise if we were to develop a bit of an understanding of how “emerging contaminants” are defined … Under Section 304(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA), EPA must develop and publish ambient water quality criteria. Under Section 405(d) of the CWA, and pursuant to 40 CFR 503, EPA regulates the use and disposal of sewage sludge.

A proposed definition of Emerging Contaminants Pollutants (biotic and abiotic) that are currently not included in routine monitoring programs and which may be candidates for future regulation, depending on research on their (eco)toxicity, potential health effects, public perception, and on monitoring data regarding their occurrence in the various environmental compartments. The Agency uses the term pollutant as defined in the CWA. Emerging pollutants are not necessarily new chemicals or known biologicals. They include pollutants that have often been present in the environment, but whose presence and significance are only now being elucidated (adapted from the EU NORMAN project: http://www.norman-network.com as of 9/13/2006).

What can we consider as “emerging contaminants”? As of April 2006, nearly 28 million organic and inorganic substances had been documented (indexed by the American Chemical Society’s Chemical Abstracts Service in their CAS Registry; excluding biosequences such as proteins and nucleotides). Of these, fewer than a quarter million (240,000) were inventoried or regulated by numerous government bodies worldwide –representing less than 2.5% of those that are commercially available or less than 0.9% of the known universe of chemicals. Some examples of emerging contaminants Anti-cancer drugs (e.g., tamoxifen, organoplatinum agents) Bactericides (i.e., triclosan, triclocarban) DBPs (Disinfection by products) (e.g., iodo-acids, nitrosamines) Fluorescent brighteners Nanomaterials carbon-based, metal-heteroatom Organotins PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) Personal care products sunscreens, synthetic musks, NPEOs, etc. PFOAs/PFOSs (perfluorinated organic acids) Pharmaceuticals diagnostic agents (e.g., X-ray contrast media), antibiotics, etc. Prions

Moreover it would be useful to have a bit of an understanding respecting …”endocrine”… pertaining to hormones and the glands that make and secrete them into the bloodstream through which they travel to affect distant organs. The endocrine sites include the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, pineal gland, thyroid, parathyroids, heart (which makes atrial-natriuretic peptide), the stomach and intestines, islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, the adrenal glands, the kidney (which makes renin, erythropoietin, and calcitriol), fat cells (which make leptin). the testes, the ovarian follicle (estrogens) and the corpus luteum in the ovary). Endocrine is as opposed to exocrine. (The exocrine glands include the salivary glands, sweat glands and glands within the gastrointestinal tract.)

It follows then that substances which interfere and alter what has been the normal and logical manner for hormones to function or alter the amount or course of any hormone could be termed an “endocrine-interrupter.”

    Current scientific observation coupled with rigorous attention to scientific testing has lead in the last five years to some remarkable discoveries about emerging contaminants and endocrine interrupters which on the surface might appear contrary to any number of generally held convictions

Current science has for example discovered that a onetime exposure to an endocrine interrupter while in an In-vitro-stage is sufficient to trigger a hormone which automatically subsequently triggers at a time and condition predetermined causing, for example, an individual or rat or fish or mouse to be overweight.

    The entry point of the specific endocrine interrupter can be injection, ingestion or even air borne.

For me the other rather startling discovery respecting endocrine interrupters is the amazing low residual level at which they function, in some instances below one part per trillion, a number frankly I am not able to get my head around.

The three presenter I noted earlier … Quanrud … Propper … Blumberg … made statements resulting in the audience involuntarily sucking in their breath as they disclosed the results of their experiments respecting affects of endocrine interrupters.

Dr. Blumberg … and I apologize as I am paraphrasing here (please watch the video on the http://www.cwagaz.org/ web site) … was bold enough to suggest that the hormones trigged by endocrine interrupters might be sufficient to trigger the demise of the human race … frankly a daunting speculation.

Might it be the current pending legacy tendered to us by honorable men and women of science on the health implications of emerging contaminants and endocrine interrupters is sufficient to arouse in us a choice to seek awareness…??

Though often not considered sufficiently arousing by American “fluff and puff” newspapers publishers the data developed especially over the last five years, on emerging contaminants and endocrine interrupters, just might be sufficient to cause the hair to rise on the back of one’s head.

Nor are these topics which today’s political leaders, irrespective of political party, sex, color or creed, choose to reasonably understand to enable them to honestly disclose and make transparent to their constituents.

Yet these are topics which easily avail themselves to outlandish fear … today’s “mother’s-milk” of the ever present 30 second TV sound bite the favorite of today’s political leaders and TV network “spinmeisters.”

I rise to salute the Citizens Water Advocacy Group (CWAG) of Prescott for sponsoring this forum and for the technical proficiency of their presenters.

It will be because of the “awareness” forums such as this one creates hopefully birthing in you and me sufficient backbone and guts to cause, to bring about, to make happen a new paradigm respecting how we value water.

If water remains in the category of a commodity as it is currently defined by American government and for-profit-corporate-interest$ … honestly assessing the short or long term deleterious human health effects of any emerging contaminant or endocrine interrupter cannot occur as all that matters is what negatively impacts next quarter’s profit$.

To expect that either government regulators or for-profit-water-purveyors will voluntarily disclose any negative heath condition traceable to the water they deliver and sell to you … just won’t happen … if water is merely a commodity.

For water to move from its current status as merely a commodity to something else … such as part of the “commons,” for example, will not occur unless “we” (that’s you & me) make it happen.

And to make that happen requires … awareness … on a personal level and awareness requires that we choose to become informed …

Stop automatically believing or giving credence to what TV talking heads declare, or government spokespersons, or politicians, city, county, state, federal.

Be willing to challenge … if the “expert” is unable or unwilling or becomes angry, hostile … take it as a sign they do not know …

Most of our questions can be answered by those who know in clear, concise and understandable language …

So on a water awareness scale of 1 to 10 … where would you place yourself…? ?

And the larger question … are you satisfied with what you currently know about water…? ?