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Local water providers caution public not to overreact


August 24. 2013 1:00PM
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LIMA — Drinking water in the United States is the safest in the world, and news reports about pharmaceuticals in the water shouldn’t cause panic, those responsible for local water treatment said.A five-month Associated Press investigation found a vast array of pharmaceuticals — antibiotics, mood stabilizers and sex hormones among others — in drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans in 24 major metropolitan areas across the country. The concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose.Utilities directors interviewed by the AP insisted their water was safe and local officials backed that up, saying the news reports could unduly scare people.“It would be premature for anyone to start worrying and not having faith in their public water supply,” said Mike Caprella, Lima assistant utilities director.The reports may prompt action from one group. The Ottawa River Coalition will consider the costs and feasibility of testing of caffeine, one of the drugs found in the AP study, at some of the 20 established testing points in the watershed this summer.Coalition coordinator Beth Seibert has long been concerned about pharmaceuticals’ affects on aquatic life, but admits she didn’t give the rest of the cycle, those rivers and streams providing drinking water, much thought.She said her group acts on information.“We won’t overreact. We’ve always been an organization that operates on sound science,” Seibert said. “I found it fascinating, because we know this is a highly medicated nation. You have to wonder what impact it’s having on the community.”Testing for the presence of drugs is expensive and sometimes not possible, said Brent Hamel, Wapakoneta water treatment superintendent, who called the AP series “extreme.”“We don’t have labs locally to run those kinds of tests,” Hamel said. “We’ve communicated with other municipalities, trying to find places to have it done. It’s something we’ve been discussing as part of our source water protection plan.”Ottawa water treatment plant superintendent Melissa Babcock wasn’t familiar with the AP stories, but pointed out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t mandate for pharmaceuticals.“I can’t imagine there would be enough of it in the water for concern,” Babcock said.When Caprella started treating water many years ago, the water was tested for 15 substances.“Now it’s 180. I just hope people are not unduly concerned. We’re always trying to make the water better. Technology is always getting better and we’re able to test for things we didn’t know about before,” Caprella said. “My family drinks this water, too.”





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