The story is a long and highly bureaucratic one, but the evidence that unwanted chemicals are getting into much of our drinking water has been clear for well over a decade. That there are increasing quantities of both intentionally biologically active compounds arising from the pharmaceutical industry and compounds from industry with biological efficacy that contaminate much of the drinking water used in the developed world has also been of long concern to regulators.

The EU has organised endless committees and commissions to ‘research’ the problem as shown on the following webpages:

http://ec.europa.eu/research/endocrine/activities_framework_en.html
http://ec.europa.eu/research/endocrine/activities_stategy_en.html

All this activity is extremely expensive and time consuming for the world’s water bureaucrats but does absolutely nothing to protect any of the consumers of the water being supplied.

My concern is that although it is important to define what is contaminating the water supplies the reality of the situation is that the contamination and risk exists and that by defining particular chemical entities does nothing to help solve the problem of their removal. What I believe is needed is realistic solutions for the removal of these toxic compounds.  It does not take a deep knowledge of chemistry to appreciate that what is required is a technology that removes low levels of all organic contaminants effectively and that it is unlikely that a detailed knowledge of the spectrum of different chemical entities contained in the water will do much to assist in their removal.

Initially a decision will need to be made whether the levels of these toxic contaminants need to be controlled in drinking water itself or that they are removed from wastewater discharge. Clearly the later approach is of much greater ecological value but will necessarily be more costly in terms of capital and energy running costs.

When the existence of this problem first became clear, technology did not exist for economically removing these compounds but in recent years I am aware that there have been a number of break through innovations that have the potential to be able to realistically remove the very low levels of organics economically. I believe that financial emphasis should be given to the development of these new techniques and research money be given to give the world the ability to clean up this contamination rather than spend money on repeatedly defining the problem.

Are the bureaucrats ‘fiddling’ while Rome burns?

Update (16/11/2016): Featured image added from this source.

Roger Ford

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