Statement By NPWA on Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water - March 18, 2008
March 17, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Contact: Maryann Regan
In light of recent media reports on the topic of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals found in the drinking water of cities around the nation, the North Penn Water Authority (NPWA) wishes to assure our customers that our water is safe to drink.
Indeed, many of our own employees and Board members are customers of NPWA in their own homes, so they and their family members also drink the same water as the rest of our customers. We would not do so if we had any doubt about its safety and purity. All of us at NPWA have a closely vested interest – both professionally and personally – to ensure that our water is the highest quality possible.
To meet that increasingly high standard for water quality, NPWA recently upgraded our jointly owned treatment plant at Forest Park to install membrane treatment technology. This is the best, most advanced treatment available in the water utility industry. Forest Park is one of only a small number of drinking water treatment plants of its size in the nation that has installed this advanced treatment capability. Also installed at Forest Park is polishing carbon filtration and ozonation for disinfection which, together with the membranes, provide a highly effective multi-barrier treatment capability. There is simply no better way available to treat drinking water today, and we’re very fortunate that we’ve got it right here in the North Penn region, which even many of the largest cities in America do not yet have.
NPWA meets or exceeds all of the most stringent water quality standards required by the federal and state governments. We are held to these high quality standards every day, and we have continually performed to these standards without any violation for many, many years. The drinking water industry is one of the most highly regulated and closely monitored industries in the nation.
Today, the EPA and DEP require all water utilities to test for a far greater number of contaminants than ever before, and treatment plants are required to remove contaminants to lower and lower levels. This is all part of the proactive nature of the water utility industry, to be always more diligent about continuous improvement in our product, for the protection of public health. We’re better now than we were many years ago, and we all strive to be even better in the future.
NPWA did not participate in the studies that were referenced in the recent news articles. There is, in fact, a very large number of contaminants that we are required to test for, which we do on a regular basis. We do not test for pharmaceuticals in the water because we are not required to do so by any federal or state regulations. More importantly, even if we did, there is nobody in the scientific research community that can say what those numbers mean. However, given the sensitive nature of this subject, NPWA will give consideration to the possibility of conducting such testing in the future.
It is critical to keep in mind that, at the extremely low concentrations of pharmaceuticals found in the studies referenced by the media, there is zero scientific evidence that there is any correlation to negative health impacts to humans. The data in the news articles were measurements in the range of parts per billion and parts per trillion. To put the size of these measurements in perspective, a part per billion is the same as one second in 32 years. A part per trillion is the same as one second in 32,000 years. These are extremely small amounts. Just because science now has developed new monitoring devices that can detect measurements at the tiniest concentrations does not mean that these extremely low levels are harmful to humans. It is far too premature to reach such a conclusion. To that end, the scientific community will need more time to study what effects, if any, that these concentrations might have. It may very well be found that any effects are nonexistent or substantially insignificant at these trace levels. It is too soon to judge, but it is certainly worth looking into further. That will be the next step in the scientific research process, and we await their conclusions.
We encourage anyone who would like more information about this subject to contact our Community Relations Coordinator, Marianne Morgan, at 215-855-3617 ext. 130, or our Executive Director, Tony Bellitto, at 215-855-3617 ext. 132. We would be happy to answer any further questions that you may have. Thank you.