Improved sewage treatment needed to stop drug pollution in rivers
Environmental charity CHEM Trust is calling for improvements to sewage and wastewater treatment to prevent river pollution caused by human and veterinary medicines. In a report, the organisation says treatment options to be considered include activated carbon, advanced oxidation or UV.
According to the report, Pharmaceuticals in the Environment: A growing threat to our tap water and the environment, medicines are polluting rivers and have harmed wild birds and fish. Dozens of medicines have been found in samples of drinking water in EU countries with larger monitoring programmes. However, legal standards for residues of medicines in rivers and drinking waters are lacking.
Gwynne Lyons, director of policy at CHEM Trust, said:“Most people would probably be surprised that in general they excrete between 30-90% of any medicine they take. With so many medicines now being found in our rivers, action on all fronts is needed to protect wildlife and drinking water.
“The long term implications of many highly active medicines in our environment may come back to haunt us. The current situation is mind-boggling with fish contaminated with the birth control pill, antidepressants (such as Prozac), sedatives, antibiotics, painkillers, anti-cancer drugs and goodness knows what else.”
The report concludes that individuals, companies and governments can all help to reduce this problem by ensuring:
- Unused medicines are disposed of at pharmacies and NOT by flushing them down the toilet
- New medicines are designed so that they don’t persist in the environment
- Sewage treatment works are improved
The report emphasised that improvements of sewage treatment works would be mandatory in some areas of the three pharmaceuticals on the EU priority watch list were accepted as priority substances under the Water Framework Directive (WFD). It added that continued research and development is also needed to "optimise water treatment technologies" and to ensure they are as energy efficient as possible.
Where highly toxic drugs are required for patients, the report suggest there should be regional specialised hospitals with additional sewage treatment, or excretion collection schemes might be needed.
- Thames Water consults customers over drinking recycled sewage Using recycled sewage as drinking water; transferring water from the North; or building a new reservoir are three schemes... Read More >
- £9M upgrade of Morpeth STW completed Northumbrian Water has completed a project to upgrade Morpeth Sewage Treatment Works in Northumberland, at a cost of £9M. Read More >
- Police and HSE launch investigation into SWW employee death The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and Devon and Cornwall Police have begun a joint investigation into the death of a... Read More >
- Going green at Severn Trent's Minworth STW With a £60 million investment aimed at producing 30 per cent more green energy from its largest sewage treatment works,... Read More >
- New dimensions: How BIM drove Scottish Water's Tullich WTW project With ESD making extensive use of BIM including 4D visualisation tools, Scottish Water has successfully completed a £29... Read More >
- Microplastics: Plastics, plastics everywhere There is growing evidence that microplastics passed on through our wastewater have become widespread in aquatic... Read More >
- Offsite build powers South East Water's £22M treatment works expansion South East Water's expansion of Bray Keleher Water Treatment Works is in full swing, with offsite manufacture aiding... Read More >
- Innovation Zone: Pesticide protection Metaldehyde cannot be removed effectively with standard drinking water treatment processes, but there are technologies... Read More >