Monday, March 10, 2008

Drinking it all in

Why, exactly, are taxpayers paying thousands of federal, state and regional regulators millions of dollars every year to monitor water supplies if it takes the nation's press to reveal that pharmaceuticals have contaminated our drinking water? The Associated Press revealed yesterday that a five-month investigation uncovered at least trace contamination in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. Of course, Congress sprang into action after the AP published the first installment of its planned five-part series on its investigation. Two U.S. senators said today they favored immediate hearings into the problem, and a Pennsylvania representative called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set up a task force to make recommendations about what to do now. Traces of at least 56 different pharmaceuticals were found in the drinking water of the city of Philadelphia, the AP said. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey), who chairs the Transportation, Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality Subcommittee, said the hearings would begin next month. Nice to see the EPA consider getting involved, now that we know the nation's chief environmental agency apparently didn't notice what was going on. "I call on the EPA to take whatever steps are necessary to keep our communities safe," Boxer said. Maybe she was being ironic. EPA spokesman Timothy Lyons said his agency was "committed to keeping the nation's water supply clean, safe and the best in the world." That's just a tad late, isn't it? The AP National Investigative Team found that some, but not all, of the water suppliers screen for drugs, most of those that do don't tell their customers what they found. The AP said the drugs, mostly residue from medications taken by people, excreted and flushed down the toilet, were found into the water supplies of at least 24 metropolitan areas across the country. The AP series also said scientists are concerned that the contamination has had adverse effects on wildlife.

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