Truly, the 21st century is not turning out as I envisioned.

We have been closely following the #FlintWatercrisis. After relying on science, technology, and public policy for decades to guarantee safe drinking water, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy just wrote a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver explaining why the region’s water woes are going to continue into the foreseeable future.

…Among the problem areas identified by McCarthy:

  • Flint’s water system is oversized for its current and projected water demand, leading to water not moving through the system as designed. This standing water in pipes can erode the residual chlorine that protects against pathogens.
  • “The water treatment plant is not adequately staffed, operated or administered to reliably deliver safe drinking water for years into the future,” McCarthy stated. Additional “experienced and expert operators” and improved standard operating procedures and preventive and corrective maintenance programs are needed.
  • The EPA administrator also was critical of city leadership. “Flint needs a city administration that can provide stable, reliable and quick administrative support essential to a well-functioning drinking water system,” she stated in her letter….

So while the EPA is struggling to deal with the lead in Flint’s water system, another government agency has issued a troubling report on an aquatic contaminant that has become ubiquitous in the public water system: Synthetic estrogen from contraceptives.

A recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that birth-control hormones excreted by women, flushed into waterways and eventually into drinking water can also impact fish fertility up to three generations after exposure — raising questions about their effects on humans, who are consuming the drugs without even knowing it in each glass of water they drink.

The survey, published in March in the journal Scientific Reports, looked at the impact of the synthetic hormone 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2), an ingredient of most contraceptive pills, in the water of Japanese medaka fish during the first week of their development.

While the exposed fish and their immediate offspring appeared unaffected, the second generation of fish struggled to fertilize eggs — with a 30% reduction in fertilization rates — and their embryos were less likely to survive. Even the third generation of fish had 20% impaired fertility and survival rates, though they were never directly exposed to the hormone.

“This study shows that even though endocrine disruptors may not affect the life of the exposed fish, it may negatively affect future generations,” said lead author of the study Ramji Bhandari, a USGS visiting scientist and University of Missouri assistant research professor.

The impact of estrogens on fish has been known for quite some time. For example, a 2007 report on minnows that studied 3-years of data showed that enhanced estrogen at levels found in untreated municipal waste waters feminized male fish and delayed the development of females.

Study leader Karen Kidd, a biologist with the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick, concluded, “It’s critical that our municipal wastewaters are treated at least with secondary treatment to reduce the input of these estrogens into surface waters.”

More recently, a University of Hawaii graduate student studied which pharmaceutical-based contaminants are most likely to leach into groundwater in the Oahu area. The substances investigated included antibiotics (a concern due to the rise of the Super-Bacteria) and three estrogen compounds.

Of 11 pharmaceuticals commonly found in sewage, University of Hawaii graduate student Jeffrey Murl has recently determined that seven of them have the potential to leach into Oahu’s groundwater, one poses an uncertain risk, and the remaining three — which are perhaps the most likely to impact humans and animals at low doses — are unlikely to leach into Oahu aquifers.

…Murl’s findings are part of an effort by the Health Department to determine how and where recycled wastewater should be used, given that it is likely laden with contaminants of emerging concern.

In a nutshell, Murl determined that though none of the estrogens were likely to leach into the groundwater, Murl direct effluent discharge to water bodies such as Lake Wilson posed a “high risk for environmental impacts.”

The key focus of the Obama Administration has been”carbon dioxide”, a compound essential for life.

It is apparent that these bureaucrats have been neglecting to effectively address compounds that present real environmental hazards. The next administration will have much work ahead of them.