Letters to the editor for April 9, 2013

Written by Union Democrat staff April 09, 2013 09:06 am

Don’t flush meds
down the toilet

To the Editor:

Thank you for the printed correction in the Monday, April 2, Union Democrat to the article entitled “Spring into Cleaning” (Sierra Living section, Thursday, March 28). However, the problems associated with flushing medications down the toilet are much greater than “concerns it can get into the groundwater supply.”  For more than a decade, scientists and water purveyors have been concerned about the presence of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, synthetic hormones, caffeine and other human-created trace elements in surface and groundwater. 

Most Tuolumne County residents do not receive their drinking water from groundwater supplies. The majority of Tuolumne County residents rely on surface water. When pharmaceuticals are flushed, local wastewater treatment plants must try to remove these chemicals before treated water is released back into local watersheds for movement downstream. There may not be reliable or cost effective treatment technology to remove these chemicals either from wastewater or as the discharged wastewater is treated downstream into drinking water!

Traces of pharmaceuticals move into our streams, rivers, and reservoirs endangering fish, wildlife, and plants. Salmon, trout, and bass spawn in local waters and provide food for our tables. Our local watersheds feed New Melones and Don Pedro Reservoirs, where visitors and local residents alike swim, ski, fish, and camp. These reservoirs provide drinking and irrigation water for municipalities downstream. Even if the antidepressant you flush in Sonora may not affect your own drinking water, it may eventually affect your son’s drinking water in Oakdale or your brother-in-law’s water in Orange County. As award-winning Canadian geneticist David Suzuki says, “We all live downstream.”

Please participate in the “Tuolumne County Take-Back Days” on April 26 & 27, 2013.  Drop off your drugs at the Junction Shopping Center between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on that Friday and Saturday. 

Rebecca Miller-Cripps 

Natural Resources Program 

University of California Cooperative Extension