WSSC Releases Results of Regional Tests for Source and Drinking Water
WSSC Releases Results of Regional
Tests for Source and Drinking Water
WSSC Drinking Water Safe; Continues to Meet, Exceed Federal Standards
DECEMBER 5, 2008: Today, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), along with Fairfax Water and the Washington Aqueduct, announced the results of tests carried out during the second quarter of 2008 to determine the presence of emerging contaminants (ECs) in the area’s water supply. Emerging contaminants are commonly described as chemicals or materials that have a real or perceived threat to human health or the environment or have a lack of published health standards. They include endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), pharmaceutical drugs and personal care products (PPCPs).
Working with the two regional partners and coordinating with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), WSSC drew samples from both the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. The samples were analyzed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) for 19 EC compounds and the results indicated the presence of extremely small amounts of three EC compounds in the Potomac River source water samples and two EC compounds in the Patuxent River source water samples.
Extremely small amounts of two of the ECs were also found in the Potomac drinking water and one in the Patuxent drinking water. Washington Aqueduct and Fairfax Water samples of source and drinking water turned up similar results in the Potomac River, as did Fairfax Water samples from the Occoquan River.
The ECs that were found in WSSC’s source water are: atrazine, a commonly used herbicide for maize crops; carbamazepine, an anti-epileptic drug; and sulfamethoxazole, an antibacterial antibiotic. Atrazine and carbamazepine were found in WSSC’s drinking water.
Although a few EC compounds were detected, WSSC drinking water is safe to consume. The compounds detected were found at the part per billion or part per trillion levels. The best research to date does not demonstrate that there is a human health risk due to the extremely low levels that were found in WSSC's drinking water. One part per billion is equal to ˝ teaspoon in an Olympic-size swimming pool. One part per trillion is equal to one drop in 26 Olympic-size swimming pools.
“As it has for more than 90 years, WSSC drinking water continues to meet or exceed federal standards,” said Teresa D. Daniell, Interim General Manager. “These tests verify that products used by people eventually find their way into our water supplies. But it is important to realize that these are extremely small amounts.”
The results are consistent with a much larger study released today by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS study looked at selected drinking water sources nationwide, including the Potomac River source for Washington Aqueduct. Of the 277 potential ECs tested for, six of which were part of WSSC’s second quarter 2008 testing, the relatively few EC compounds that were detected frequently were found at low levels expected to have negligible human health effects.
WSSC routinely monitors for nearly 180 contaminants in the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers. Many of these results are reported annually in the Commission’s Water Quality Report which is shown below. WSSC has always met or exceeded federal drinking water standards.
The Potomac Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership, founded by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, Fairfax Water and the Washington Aqueduct, will continue to study water quality issues in the Potomac River watershed.
“While these regional efforts are essential, we need national resources, research and coordination,” says Daniell. “These are complicated issues and these testing techniques are expensive. The EPA and other government agencies can better determine whether these man-made compounds have an adverse effect on people, and at what level. Then, if needed, they can determine the best strategy to eliminate or reduce them, whether it is through water treatment processes or by putting more emphasis on keeping these compounds out of the water in the first place.”
For more information, including Frequently Asked Questions about WSSC’s testing for emerging contaminants, please visit www.wsscwater.com.
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