6 Jul 2009

Drugs in our water?

Today I was in Bath and Avonmouth for the Wessex Water Joint Customer Liaison Panel meeting - I'll blog on that in a while but this evening wanted to mention one of the issues I raised - it relates to medications in our water....I recently read the article 'Drugs on tap' by John Naish in The Ecologist - see article here.

Photo: Randwick Woods on Sunday

This article in May discusses concern regarding pharmaceuticals getting into our water system, either through lavatories or refuse disposal. Purifying systems are apparently not specifically designed to remove drug residues which means they are contaminating the food chain and our drinking water. The article notes that the 'UK Drinking Water Inspectorate in November 2007 suggests that each of us now consumes between 50g and 150g of active pharmaceutical ingredients a year via our tap water'.

It also says that the Drinking Water Inspectorate is running pilot tests of potential high-risk rivers at the point where human drinking water is extracted, to ascertain if there is any danger of pharmaceutical pollution. Meanwhile the British water industry's scientific collaborative body, UK Water Industry Research, is investigating how it can cost-effectively remove oestrogens from sewage. Dr Andrew Johnson, a water quality scientist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Wallingford is quoted saying: "There is a need for a lot more research. However it is not currently fashionable. The public are concerned, but the research-funding agencies much less so. We don't have enough information to rule out whether it is an issue."

So I wanted to know what view Wessex Water had on this? Infact they suggest the article may have got the figured wrong - indeed it does seem slightly unbelievable the 50 to 150 gms figure - coming home I've done a quick web search and it would appear that figure is consumption of drugs not via tap water? See report here.

However as they acknowledge this is an issue - indeed The Telegraph also covered the story here re cancer drugs in the water. However with Wessex most of their water comes from aquifers and sources otherthan 'reclaimed' the water. It sounds like we will have to wait and see if it is an issue of concern in other water supplies - certainly it is also not just pharmaceuticals but other chemicals - I heard a story today about one person spraying their weeds with pesticides and then washing their equipment in the river - this caused a spike in levels in the tests being done on quality so that water company folk went out to search for the pollution source....anyhow I'm rambling now and must to bed early.

More on Wessex tomorrow if I have time.....