Cape Cod water: A cocktail of antibiotics, bug spray and scotchguard

Speaking of disease detectives, Newton’s Silent Spring Institute has been monitoring potentially toxic chemicals in the water and homes in Cape Cod and the news is not good.

From a report released today.

 Tests of 20 wells and two distributions systems supplying drinking water on Cape Cod found that 75 percent of the wells and both distribution systems had detectable levels of emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and consumer product chemicals, primarily coming from septic systems.
The results were released today by Silent Spring Institute.  Nine water districts on Cape Cod voluntarily participated in the study.  The study provides some of the first information in the U.S. about impacts of septic systems on groundwater used for drinking water.

Septic systems are the most likely source for most of the 18 chemicals detected, which include nine pharmaceuticals, an insect repellent, halogenated organophosphate flame retardants and perfluorinated chemicals.  The two most frequently detected chemicals were sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic commonly used to treat urinary tract infections and pneumonia, and PFOS, used in stain-resistant and nonstick coatings, as well as fire-fighting foams.  Levels of these compounds were among the highest reported in US drinking water, except in a few cases of industrial contamination.  The widespread presence of antibiotics has raised the possibility of promoting development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.  PFOS and the related compound PFOA, which was also detected in this study, are hormone disrupting compounds that have been associated at higher exposure levels with effects on the thyroid, mammary gland, cholesterol metabolism, immune system, cancer, and growth and development.

“We found many contaminants in Cape Cod’s drinking water supply, indicating that current policies are not adequate to prevent emerging contaminants from getting into drinking water. Septic systems are the main source,” said Laurel Schaider, Ph.D., a research scientist at Silent Spring Institute.  “Water suppliers who participated in this study are very forward-looking in their approach to protecting water quality for the future.”  Monitoring for the test chemicals is not required and there are no regulatory standards for them.

Researchers will hold a public meeting to discuss the findings and answer questions at 3 p.m. today at the Barnstable Town Hall.





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