Sunday, March 9, 2008

104 Pollutants in Drinking Water

On February 21, 2008 the Society of Environmental Journalists ( posted this:

Many controversial contaminants recently in the news, such as perchlorate, formaldehyde, and the gasoline additive MTBE, are included on a list of 104 pollutants that are known or likely to be found in drinking water, and which EPA is asking for public comments on as it decides whether and how to regulate them. The agency is also taking comments on the new process it used to whittle down the original list of about 7,500 substances it considered for addition to its list of 87 regulated drinking water contaminants. The 90-day public comment period ends May, 21, 2008.

-- Federal Register notice of Feb. 21, 2008:
Other substances under review include pesticides, industrial chemicals, disinfection byproducts, and pathogens such as acetaldehyde, hydrazine, cobalt, ethylene glycol, nitroglycerin, permethrin, strontium, and select forms of microbes such as Salmonella, Legionella, and Helicobacter.

If EPA chooses to regulate any of the 104 substances, it will have to begin a formal rulemaking process for each. It likely will be several years before any might be added to those that each utility must track and report on annually in its Consumer Confidence Report.

For more information on the review process for the 104 substances, see

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Every week I take out my recycling. Most weeks I don’t think much of it. It’s just another household chore. This week was different. As I hauled my clear plastic bag filled with plastic containers over my shoulder, I was super aware of my task. Inside the bag were some Naked juice bottles, a couple of soygurt cups, and a few containers that used to hold Chinese food and salad bar takeout. There were also two water bottles. One from a recent flight and the other from a day I stood thirsty on the corner of Cooper Square.

All of this recycling was about to be tossed on the sidewalk along with thousands of other plastic bags holding more piles of plastic, to be picked up by garbage trucks that will take this garbage to be reincarnated as more plastic in new shapes and sizes.

I can probably blame this new uneasiness on Elizabeth Royte (, whom I interviewed a few days ago. We chatted about her book “Bottlemania,” which hits bookstores in a few months. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy. Now, I also happen to be thinking about my recycling long after it was hauled away.

Perhaps these thoughts are natural. Like sediment in churned river, Royte’s last words of our chat are still floating around my brain. “The decisions we make affect people and places. It’s important to know where our water comes from, the toll it’s taking and then choose what’s right for you,” said Royte, “Hopefully people will choose the action that has the least impact.”