Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, is showing his support for clean water in Pennsylvania with the introduction of House Bill 1737 which would allow operators of some waste-to-energy plants in the Commonwealth to run programs offering free and safe disposal of pharmaceuticals, thereby preventing the contamination of surface and drinking waters.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation supports House Bill 1737 and urges passage of this legislation.
Scientists are finding that pharmaceuticals and their by-products are found not only in our rivers and streams, but in treated drinking water as well.
An investigation by the Associated Press in 2008, found a total of 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts - antibiotics, pain relievers, and heart, mind, and veterinary drugs - in the City of Philadelphia’s drinking water.
There’s no reason to believe that this is isolated to Philadelphia.
In fact, small quantities of drugs, including antibiotics, sex hormones, and anti-seizure compounds, were detected in public drinking water supplied to over 40 million Americans across the country.
Private wells, which may also harbor pharmaceuticals, often receive limited to no treatment before consumption.
While 70 percent of all antibiotics are used are for agriculture and animal husbandry, the U.S. Geological Survey found that within the lower Susquehanna River Basin that the greatest source of pharmaceuticals in the rivers and streams is sewage treatment plants.
While treatment plants may remove 95 to 98 percent of pharmaceuticals from sewage, low concentrations are still active biologically. No one treatment method can currently remove all pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceutical collection events are cost-effective, excellent ways to reduce these hazards. However, under Act 190 of 1996, pharmaceuticals collected by such safe disposal programs are defined as hazardous waste and therefore they cannot be sent for destruction at Pennsylvania waste to energy facilities.
House Bill 1737 will amend Act 190 to enable Pennsylvania’s waste-to-energy facilities to provide an important step in the destruction of pharmaceuticals and thus, help to protect our precious water supplies and rivers and streams.
Covanta Energy operates 5 waste-to-energy facilities in Pennsylvania in Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery and York counties. Covanta also developed the Rx4Safety Program to provide for safe destruction of unused, unwanted prescription drugs.
For more information on Pennsylvania and Chesapeake Bay issues, visit the CBF-Pennsylvania webpage. Click Here to sign up for regular updates from CBF-PA (bottom of left panel).
Related Stories:(Note: Crisci Associates represents both Covanta Energy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA.)