Tougher scrutiny ahead for drinking water?
December 29, 2009
An Associated Press story
suggests that the Federal government is developing tougher guidelines for the management of pharmaceuticals that could be finding their way into the nation's drinking-water supplies. The story quotes a researcher who thinks the announcements "signal a change in the regulatory and research approaches" the government will take, but it also notes that considerable uncertainty exists about whether a real human-health threat exists or whether anything can reasonably be done about what chemicals are eventually found in trace amounts in drinking-water supplies. Fundamentally, water professionals are responsible for asking two exceedingly important questions: First, will a dollar spent on managing pharmaceuticals in drinking-water supplies do at least a dollar's worth of good for public health. Second, will a dollar spent on pharmaceutical control do more to protect the public health overall than a dollar spent on other improvements that can be made to our water supplies? Water professionals who are frustrated by the lack of resources being devoted to known problems like microbial contamination
of source waters and infrastructure failures
-- both of which are known to create a threat to human health -- may be frustrated by political willingness to take dramatic action about unknown or uncertain hazards like trace pharmaceuticals despite unwillingness to deal with the problems we already know about.
last revised December 2009