David Reckhow, a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, was featured prominently December 8 on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network talking about trace elements of pharmaceuticals such as estrogen, which is increasingly found in fresh water ponds near developed areas. The compounds are believed to be the cause of gender changes found in some of New England’s amphibians and frogs. The pharmaceuticals are also being found in small amounts in drinking water supplies. Professor Reckhow is among the most influential researchers who are studying rivers and ponds across the Northeast for traces of pharmaceuticals --- not just from dumping, but from human waste. These findings have raised concerns about whether pharmaceuticals are getting into drinking water.
Below is a transcription of that part of the broadcast dealing with Reckhow:
"We set up these small-scale treatment systems that are intended to mimic a full-scale water treatment plant," says University of Massachusetts Environmental Engineer David Reckhow. Reckhow is investigating whether drinking water systems are able to remove prescription drugs, including ones that contain estrogen.
"To date what we've learned is that some of these pharmaceuticals, and in particular the estrogenic compounds, are easily removed by conventional water treatment."
Well, sort of. Reckhow goes on to say that part of the estrogenic compounds remain after treatment. "We think there may be by-products that are partly degraded, partly fragmented versions of the original estrogenic compounds, and they may still be biologically active."
Meaning these fragments could still affect people or animals. But Reckhow says no one knows yet what the effects are. (December 2009)