Nov 12, 2009

Report: New Pollutants Emerge in D.C.-Area Drinking Water

Potomac Conservancy discusses emergence of endocrine disruptors in Potomac River

The Potomac Conservancy released its third annual “State of the Nation’s River” report, calling attention to a variety of pollutants found in the Potomac River that disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates the normal growth and sexual development of vertebrate species, including humans and fish.

The report describes the emergence of these new contaminants in the Potomac River system, features research exploring the potential relationship of these chemicals to the phenomenon of intersex fish and suggests shortcomings in current federal and local regulations that are leaving this problem “essentially unregulated.”

A companion document, the “2009 Potomac Agenda,” calls on Congress to amend The Safe Drinking Water Act and seeks better storm water regulations at the local level. The report suggests other avenues of future action to address these new pollutants, including updated assessment models for chemicals that may disrupt the regulation and development of the endocrine system, advocates for technology to remove these chemicals from waste water and drinking water supplies and calls for regulatory action for state and federal government agencies.

Scientists speaking with reporters on a conference call said the prevalence of the intersex condition in more than 80% of Potomac River fish studied is the “canary in the coal mine,” warning of health problems that can arise because of endocrine disrupting compounds. Since approximately 90% of D.C.-area drinking water comes from the Potomac River. and many other nearby municipalities get their water from surface sources, they said it is critical that steps be taken to limit the amount of these chemicals entering the rivers of the greater Potomac basin.