Pharmaceuticals in the Water
Testing for emerging substances of concern
Over the last few decades, new substances such as pharmaceuticals, endocrine disrupting compounds and pesticides have started to be detected in the environment. Referred to as “emerging substances of concern,” some studies have shown that these compounds find their way into surface water, groundwater, and drinking water.
rasu Thirunavukkarasu, Ph.D, P.Eng., has been conducting a study on these compounds in Saskatchewan water.
“No studies have proven that these compounds have an effect on human or animal health,” he said. “But we get many calls from the public: What is the level of that compound in the water?”
Thirunavukkarasu is with environmental protection services, EMMS division, Water Security Agency, and he spoke on the topic “Emerging Substances of Concern in Saskatchewan Water and Wastewater” at the APEGS Annual Meeting.
His current research Is testing water both upstream and downstream from different wastewater and water treatment plants by Lloydminster, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Melfort, Saskatoon, Buffalo Pound and Regina.
So far, the results have been good – there are only very low levels of certain emerging substances of concern in the water after it has been treated.
The study looked at 34 compounds, and the results of first set of samples collected showed that none of the compounds were present in the drinking water. Many of the pharmaceutical and personal care products are detected in both raw and treated wastewater, but the systems used to remove the compounds work well.
They’re still collecting and analyzing the samples, but the study should be complete by next year.
Saskatchewan is only the second province in Canada to monitor the level of emerging substances of concern in the water. Currently these emerging substances of concern are not monitored by regulatory agencies, but the studies Thirunavukkarasu and his team are conducting will give them data to work with down the road, he said.
Thirunavukkarasu has more than 25 years of experience in civil and environmental engineering, especially in water and wastewater engineering. He’s been working with the Water Security Agency for more than 17 years, developing standards, guidelines, regulations and policies for water, wastewater and biosolids treatment units in Saskatchewan.
His work includes studying and sampling water and delivering conclusions based on the results. The studies help regulators develop science-based water quality guidelines. “Saskatchewan is very good about providing regulation in terms of water and wastewater,” he said.
All of the data from water research in the province is added to Saskh20.ca, available in a searchable database. “Once in the database, it is always open,” Thirunavukkarasu said.