Flush or Drain, Will Cause a Strain

Drug Takeback Day

By Trey Cody

Do you, like many other Americans, look into your medicine cabinet and see bottles of unused prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs? Being in the bathroom with a sink and toilet readily available, your first thought may be to simply flush or dispose of them down the drain. Yes, pills are water soluble, but this solution may have negative outcomes.

When flushed and drained, it’s possible for pharmaceuticals to get into our streams, rivers and lakes.  This is because drugs, including antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids are not always removed completely at waste water treatment facilities. Continued exposure to low levels of pharmaceuticals in our water systems may alter the behavior and physiology of the fish and other aquatic organisms who call it home.  EPA has been working with other federal agencies and state and local government partners to better understand the implications low levels of pharmaceuticals in water, the potential effects on aquatic organisms and if there is an impact on human health.

Though flushing and draining is not the only way pharmaceuticals enter our wastewater, it’s one we can do something about.

April 28, 2012 is the next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day issued by the Drug Enforcement Administration.  During this time you can drop off your unwanted drugs at many participating municipal locations, where they will be disposed of safely and properly.  The last event collected over 188.5 tons of unwanted or expired medications at the 5,327 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states.

But you don’t have to wait until April to dispose of your old meds. You can contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to find if there are drop off locations in your area.  If all else fails, you can dispose of drugs in your household trash by following a few simple steps.

How do you dispose of your unwanted pharmaceuticals? Have you participated in any take back programs?  Do you have any suggestions of how to improve programs like these?  Let us know!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Take Winter with a Grain of Salt

By Christina Catanese

It’s about that time of year when the Mid-Atlantic region starts preparing the snow plows and pulling out the road salt. In most of our region this winter, we’ve had a lot of warm days and no big “snowmageddons” so far, but the season is still young!

When big snow storms strike, how do you fight back? Methods like shoveling, snow plows, snow blowers, and applying sand and deicing salt keep roads clear and people safe. But did you ever think about the environmental impact of clearing snow and ice?

Although rock salt is an effective way to clear roads and driveways, issues can arise when the snow is gone and the salt is left behind. As the snow melts in the spring, the salt dissolves and runs off the road into storm drains and nearby water bodies. This can harm aquatic life like fish and plants. Human health can be impacted as well if the salt reaches drinking water supplies.

Many towns have moved from applying to salt to highways and are now applying brine, which has less environmental impact.  Check out this link to learn more about some innovations in snow removal, including a method being piloted by Maryland that sprays a mixture of sugar beets and brine onto highways.

So when the next big winter storm strikes, strike back, but in an environmentally friendly way. Here are some recommended actions to reduce salt application:

car-snow1. Use the Right Material: There are many options beyond salt and sand, like less toxic chemicals and even things like clean kitty litter.
2. Use the Right Amount: More isn’t necessarily better. Warmer roads need less salt, and roads below 10º F will not benefit from rock salt at all. Applying less salt is also a more economical choice. Snow clean-up costs are reduced, as are damages to cars, roads, and bridges.
3. Apply at the Right Place: Apply salt where it will do most good, like hills, curves, shaded sections of road, and bridges. Use discretion when applying salt near sensitive streams or in drinking water source water protection areas.
4. Apply at the Right Time: Don’t wait until snow is falling to get started. It takes more salt to melt accumulated snow than it does to prevent accumulation.
5. Use Proper Storage Techniques: Salt and sand piles should always be covered to prevent runoff, and should be located away from streams and wetlands.
Read more about best management practices for applying and storing road salt while protecting water supplies here.

Is your municipality practicing smart salt application with these actions? Are you practicing them at your home? Do you know of any other environmentally-friendly ways to clean up snow? Let us know how you’re staying both safe and green this winter season.

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

An Rx for Unused Pills

Click here to get EPA tips on how to dispose of your medicine.By Brian Hamilton

If you’re like most Americans, you may have some expired or unused medicines sitting in your house and you’re not sure what to do with them.

The Drug Enforcement Administration knows this is a big problem.   That’s why the DEA is hosting a National Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, October 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at many different municipal locations.   Last year, nearly 4,000 local agencies participated in the event and collected over 309 tons of pills.

So what does this have to do with Healthy Waters?

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs poured down the drain or flushed down the toilet can pass through wastewater treatment plants and enter rivers and lakes, which may serve as sources downstream for community drinking water supplies.  In homes that use septic tanks, medicines flushed down the toilet can leach into the ground and seep into ground water.

In addition to the National Drug Take Back Day, check with your municipal or county government’s household trash and recycling service to see if there are other drug take-back programs available in your community.

Click here to learn more about the National Drug Take Back Day and find take back locations. Also click here to get EPA tips on how to dispose of your medicine.

About the Author: Brian Hamilton works in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support at Region 3. He helps manage the Healthy Waters Blog, and assists in reviewing mining permits and does other duties as assigned. Brian grew up in Central Pennsylvania. He has worked for the EPA since July 2010.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

A Firsthand View

By Trey Cody

Wastewater Treatment 101 

As an intern in EPA Region III’s Water Protection Division, my day typically involved working in the office on projects related to the region’s Healthy Waters Initiative.      

But near the end of my internship this summer, I was able to get a firsthand look at what is being done to treat water in the Philadelphia area. I participated in a tour of the Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant, managed by the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), viewing the processes that allow the plant to clean around 194 million gallons of wastewater per day.

There are the preliminary treatment processes, which remove the large debris like trash and rocks from the wastewater coming into the plant.  Then there is the removal of smaller particles like dirt and grit in a settling tank. And then, biological processes take over, as various kinds of bacteria and microorganisms go to work to consume the organic matter in the wastewater.  Finally, the water is disinfected (usually with chlorine or UV light) before it is discharged to a neighboring stream. The solids that were taken out of the water during the process are referred to as biosolids, which are usually disposed of in landfills, but can be land-applied as fertilizer.  Who knew all this happened to the water once it went down the drain in my house!  I was surprised by how large the plant was; there are so many processes to keep moving and monitor along the way.  And it wasn’t even that smelly most of the time!

The Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant was built in the early 1950’s, then expanded and renovated from 1975 to 1983 to ensure PWD met the requirements of the Clean Water Act.  This treatment plant is one of three of the PWD’s facilities that treat wastewater before it is discharged back into rivers and streams. 

Do you know where your water goes after you use it, and what happens to it along the way before it goes back into our rivers and streams?  Have you ever visited a wastewater treatment plant?  You can take a virtual tour of one of the largest plants by clicking here. http://www.dcwasa.com/about/model_flash.cfm

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Taking Drinking Water to the Streets

By Christina Catanese

How many gallons of water do you think you use each day?

Do you think your water supply is safe?

Do you think there is enough water?

How might climate change impact water resources?

What could you do to influence your public water supply?

MOSdrinkingwater

These are the questions that we asked the public one day on the Independence Mall in Philadelphia!  A group of EPA employees including myself took to the streets to get your views on drinking water – and we found some interesting stuff.  Most people were surprised by how high the average amount of water use per person per day is.  I was somewhat taken aback by some of the responses  but I was given hope by the responses to others.

Watch this 3 minute video to see what our participants said, then tell us your answers in the comments section!

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Chesapeake’s Shelter from the Storm(water)

cbstormwaterBy Christina Catanese

Our friends at the Chesapeake Bay Program Office have a very informative series of videos called Bay 101 that are great for learning the issues that the Bay faces and how it’s getting cleaned up.   This video about stormwater runoff to the Chesapeake is one of these.  Stormwater is an issue threatening healthy waters all over the Mid Atlantic region.  With growing populations and expanding urban and suburban development, more areas are being paved over with impervious surfaces rather than the forested or grassed areas that were there before.  This means that instead of the water soaking into the ground, it runs over the paved surfaces into storm drains, which take that stormwater right into waterways.  You know those little labels you sometimes see on the sidewalk that say “No dumping, drains to river”?  Well, they aren’t just for decoration…it’s true.

Now, this runoff harms the Bay and other local water ways because the runoff picks up all kinds of stuff as it washes over paved surfaces.  Just think of all the dirt and grime on the street: oil or gas leaks from cars, litter, dirt, grit, fertilizer from lawns, and who knows what else.  Click the pic to watch the video and hear much more about how stormwater harms the Chesapeake and what we can do about it.  Check out the other great videos the Bay Program has while you’re there.  How do you see stormwater affecting the Chesapeake or your local waterways?

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Hook, Line and Sinker!

Click here to visit the EPA Fish Advisory Main Page!

The hooks and lines have been in the water for a couple weeks now and spring fishing is in full swing. The Mid-Atlantic Region has some of the greatest fishing in America and if you haven’t been out to try your luck with a rod and reel, then you are missing out. Fishing is an excellent way to relax, experience nature and even catch yourself a meal!

Each state has a great website on fishing. You can visit them below to learn more about the species of fish, get fishing reports, learn about different fishing seasons and how to obtain a fishing license.

Pennsylvania has over 86,000 miles of streams and rivers! Visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for more information on where to catch the whopper near you!

Did you know you can fish for over 40 species of freshwater and saltwater fish as well as 5 different shellfish in Maryland? Visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources web site for even more useful information!

In 1975 there were over 11,000 resident Delaware state fishing licenses sold. In, 2008 the number grew to over 45,000. Fishing is alive and well in the “First State.” Visit the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife for more information.

Just last year the new state record Yellow Perch was caught in West Virginia. This proves that monster fish are still roaming West Virginia water bodies. Visit West Virginia DNR Wildlife Resources for more information.

More than 800,000 fishermen make Virginia a destination for fishing every year. That generates over $1.3 billion in revenue for the state! Visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for more information.

DC hosts free fishing days. Visit the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation for more information. Also visit the District Department of the Environment for more fishing information.

Keeping your catch and cooking it is a favorite for many fishermen. Many of the species you can catch in the Mid-Atlantic Region are tasty to eat and, because they are packed with low-calorie protein, they are very healthy for you as well.

One aspect you need to be aware of when eating wild or locally caught fish is the chance of contaminants being present in the fish. Pollutants like mercury or PCBs can build up in the fish’s tissue. These pollutants lie in the sediment of a water body and are passed to fish up through the food chain. At certain levels these contaminants can be harmful to humans who consume the fish.

So what do you need to know about eating locally caught or wild fish? The first thing is that many water bodies have already-in-place Fish Consumption Advisories. These are guides that notify people of how much of a certain species of fish they can safely eat, normally over a month’s or a year’s time. You can visit the EPA Fish Advisory main page to learn more.

Each state publishes its own information on Fish Advisories. Visit the states you are interested in below to learn more!

Pennsylvania Fish Consumption Guide

Maryland Fish Consumption Guide

Delaware Fish Consumption Guide

West Virginia Fish Consumption Guide

Virginia Fish Consumption Guide

DC Fish Consumption Guide

Have any favorite recipes for fish? Know of any great fishing holes? Share your thoughts on our comments page!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Concentrated Effort, Universal Need

Potomac River BasinNearly 6 million people live in the drainage area of the Potomac River which stretches 14,670 square miles across four states and the District of Columbia. 86% of these people get their drinking water from public water suppliers which use the Potomac River, its tributaries and surrounding ground water as their source water. And with an average flow before withdrawal of 7 billion gallons/day, it may be an understatement to say: it’s a big deal!

Luckily, this has not gone unnoticed. Organized in 2004, the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership (DWSPP) has been working to better understand and address the risks that may negatively affect the quality of drinking water in the Potomac River basin. The Partnership is a voluntary association of 20 water suppliers and government agencies whose mission is the protection of their source water supplies in the basin. Some of the biggest interests of the Partnership are:

• Tracking research on low levels of emerging  contaminants to determine their persistence in the environment and their potential threats to human health and the environment

• Early warning/emergency response to events and conditions which may threaten the safety of the water supply

• Urban issues such as the impact of roadway salts on drinking water sources

• Agriculture issues such as the potential contribution of pathogens. One example of this is Cryptosporidium, which may cause water-borne disease

Broad source water programs like the Partnership’s are significant because they extend beyond the treatment element and provide an invaluable multi-barrier approach to drinking water protection. With concerns like those above (and more) in both urban and rural areas, this collaborative approach should open the eyes of residents in watersheds everywhere.

So what should you do? Educate yourself on the issues the Potomac DWSPP is working on by visiting their website and be sure to take a look at specific information about special topics or workgroup activities. You may also find information like how to properly dispose of pharmaceuticals, as well as other ways you too can ensure safe drinking water for your area.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Is Your Well well?

Click for links to your states website15% of Americans rely on private wells for their daily water needs.  Private well water quality is the responsibility of the homeowner and is not regulated by the EPA; however, there may be state or local laws that apply so check for those, too. It is important if you are using a private well to have your well water tested for quality. Once a year it is recommended that you test for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH level. Depending on where you live you may want to test for other contaminants. Visit your state’s private well web site to find more information.
 Testing well water is an important practice for private well users but equally important are prevention practices. Some useful things to keep in mind about your private well:
• Septic tanks should be at least  50 feet away from the well and depending on the hydrogeology of the site , 100 feet might be recommended
• Minimize the use of pesticides and herbicides on your land
• Do not dispose of household and lawn care wastes near your well
• Regularly check underground oil and gas holding tanks; these tanks can leak into your drinking well
• Ensure your well is protected from livestock, pet and wildlife waste
• Make sure well casings are at least 8 inches above the ground and a sanitary well cap is used at the top of the casing.
Visit the American Groundwater Trust. It is an organization that has been around since 1986 and educates people about maintaining and testing their ground water wells. The Trust has a very informative website with many useful resources.
Also check out the Mid-Atlantic Master Well Owner Network for information on proper construction and maintenance of private water systems in Pennsylvania and throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region.
Do you get your water from a private well? Share some things to watch out for or problems you have encountered and what solution worked best for you.
 Read more information on private drinking wells.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Not Quite Trading Cards

How much do you know about the Clean Water Act? Take the Quiz! By Trey Cody

I don’t know about you, but when I think of trading I think of cards, coins, stamps, and other collectable items. I’m here to tell you about a different kind of trading going on in our Mid-Atlantic Region. It’s called water quality trading. You might ask, “How can you trade the quality of your water?” Water quality trading programs are fairly new, and are being implemented throughout the United States under the Clean Water Act. How Water quality trading works is, within a watershed there are sources of pollution (in many cases treatment plants and industrial manufacturing plants). When one source has a greater pollutant reduction need than another, a trade can be made allowing both sources to achieve the best possible water quality goals set for their specific watershed.

In the Mid Atlantic Region, there are currently 4 established trading programs. These are:

  • The Pennsylvania Trading of Nutrient & Sediment Credits
  • The Maryland Nutrient Trading Program
  • The Virginia Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Credit Exchange
  • The West Virginia Potomac Water Quality Bank and Trade Program
  • These programs are put in place to control the pollutants nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment.

    What are the benefits of trading?

    1. Cost-effective way to reduce pollution without compromising environmental protection
    2. Faster way to achieve pollutant reductions
    3. Use of trading as a tool may enable a watershed to achieve its water quality goals

    So…What do you think are other potential benefits to such a program being created?

    Learn more about EPA’s policy in their first “how-to” manual on designing and implementing water quality trading programs, or Take the Fact or Fiction Quiz.

    Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

    EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.