WRF Launches Hospital Discharge Research Project

Jan. 5, 2016
Effort will help water and wastewater utilities address contaminants entering the water supply from healthcare facilities

The Water Research Foundation (WRF), a leading sponsor of research supporting the water community, has announced a new project that will seek to improve understanding of current practices to reduce the loading of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) being discharged from hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The project, titled Hospital Discharge Practices and Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Water (Project #4616), will investigate the current regulations and discharge practices for hazardous materials in the healthcare industry in order to provide data to formulate feasible actions to reduce the amount of CECs entering the water system due to modern healthcare practices. In addition to chemical contaminants, the project will investigate microbial contaminants discharged from hospitals.

Research has shown hospital discharge to be a source of CECs in wastewater. Since many of these chemicals—such as chemotherapy drugs and iodinated contrast agents used in X-rays and CT scans—can be resistant to standard wastewater treatment, precautions must be taken in order to prevent CECs from entering water sources for both wastewater and drinking water. The findings of Project #4616 will provide insight to water utilities, wastewater utilities and hospitals so they can take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and quality of water throughout the United States.

In addition to researching the current precautions for preventing CECs from entering sources for drinking water, project #4616 will provide utilities with more insight into the current regulation for hospital discharge practices. Recently, the EPA proposed the Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals Rule, which seeks to establish a set of regulations for healthcare facilities and distributors for the safe-management of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals within the healthcare setting. The EPA’s proposed rule, as well as the research findings expected with the completion of Project #4616, are measures that could help preserve the safety of drinking and surface water by reducing the amount of pharmaceuticals entering U.S. waterways.

“Protecting the sources of our wastewater and drinking water by reducing chemical and microbial exposure is imperative to ensuring both public health and the safety of the environment,” said Rob Renner, executive director of the WRF. “This research into preventing CECs from entering our waterways will enable collaboration between water utilities, healthcare practitioners and other stakeholders.”

Co-sponsored by U.K. Water Industry Research, Project #4616 has been awarded to American Water. Ruth Marfil-Vega, environmental scientist at American Water, will serve as the principal investigator.

Source: Water Research Foundation

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