BY ALEX BETINARDI AND STANLEY SHMIA
Since Flint, Michigan, and other communities brought the issue of water safety to the headlines, even non-water professionals are familiar with common contaminants like lead and arsenic. But there remains some ambiguity around “emerging contaminants” that are now appearing in water supplies, particularly as regulations to mitigate them are under development with no clear guidelines yet available.
Emerging contaminants, or contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), include a variety of chemicals – including pharmaceuticals and personal care, and household cleaning products. CECs enter the environment constantly, a result of the tens of thousands of chemical-based products people use every day.
While the traditional mindset was “dilution is the solution to pollution”, we now know that this is not true. As CECs have made their way into rivers and streams, tests show there are measurable quantities of these contaminants in the water and aquatic ecosystem. These contaminants can impact aquatic life and, as they accumulate in the food web, they put non-aquatic species at risk when they eat contaminated fish. There are serious concerns about the health risks to terrestrial organisms, including humans. The risk to human health is still uncertain but include endocrine-disrupting activity and other toxic mechanisms, including some recognised as carcinogens by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Traditional treatment plants were not designed to remove these modern organic and synthetic contaminants. Recognising this, many municipalities are searching for new ways to effectively meet the challenge. The first step is understanding the nature of these contaminants.
The full article is available on the latest edition of Water & Wastewater Asia Jan/Feb 2022 issue. To continue reading, click here.