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A new study in Environmental Science & Technology has found that leaky sewage infrastructure in Baltimore, Maryland, is leaking tens of thousands of doses of pharmaceuticals into the Chesapeake Bay each year. Researchers say that the drugs could have significant impacts on wildlife biology, development, and behavior that may have ripple effects for the rest of the ecosystem.
Why This Matters: These findings highlight two issues; threats to marine ecosystems and aging water system infrastructure in the United States. The Chesapeake Bay once had thriving populations of oysters; now, they’ve declined to just two percent of their former numbers. Researchers say that the concentrations and combinations of drugs found in the Bay are enough to significantly impact ecological processes. The report found that by upgrading water infrastructure to track combinations and concentrations of pharmaceuticals in water and more effectively remove the contaminants, regions like the Chesapeake Bay can prevent potential ecological devastation.
The researchers analyzed samples from six sites northwest of the Gwynns Falls watershed, screening for 92 pharmaceutical compounds. They found 37 compounds in the samples, most commonly trimethoprim, an antibiotic.
By pairing data on drug concentrations found at the Gwynns Falls outlet with discharge rates recorded by a nearby U.S. Geological Survey monitoring station, the researchers were able to determine how many doses of drugs were administered to the Chesapeake Bay by leaky pipes. They found tens of thousands of doses, including “30,000 adult doses of antidepressants, 1,700 doses of antibiotics, and about 30,000 tablets of acetaminophen.”
The study found that although only 1% of raw sewage from the Gwynns Falls watershed originates from leaky pipes, pharmaceutical pollution flowing from the latter presents different dangers. “Our findings show that plants and animals exposed to sewage from leaky pipes are receiving a different mix of compounds than those exposed to wastewater treatment plant effluent,” said Emma Rosi, senior co-author and aquatic ecologist at Cary Institute.
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer For decades, uranium mining has contaminated the Navajo Nation, causing higher cancer rates and water pollution. Even though the health risks and environmental harms of uranium mining are well-established, new operations continue to move forward. One local group, the Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) hasn’t found a […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he would extend the drought emergency statewide and issued an executive order to have residents conserve water. As part of this effort, eight new counties were added to the state of emergency, and authorized the State Water Resources Control Board was authorized to […]
By Elizabeth Love, ODP Contributing Writer Authorities in the Canadian Arctic territory Nunavut, announced a state of emergency this week due to a possible contamination event affecting the City of Iqaluit’s water supply. Tests were performed after residents reported the smell of gasoline coming from their tap water, but they came back clean. However, […]
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