Local water sources are safe, officials say

Published on Thu, Mar 13, 2008 by Tara Nelson

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Local water sources are safe, officials say

By Tara Nelson

In light of the recent discovery of traces of pharmaceutical compounds in drinking water sources of many major U.S. cities, local water officials want to reassure residents in Blaine and Birch Bay about the regional water quality .

The Associated Press reported in a five-month study that drinking water in at least 24 major metropolitan areas tested positive for trace amounts of pharmaceuticals.

Blaine public works director Steve Banham, however, said Blaine and Birch Bay’s water supply comes from nine deep wells primarily located in a rural, forested area east of Blaine, at depths ranging from 300 to 800 feet, depending on where the particular aquifer is located.

Banham said an aquifer, or an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, is different from a reservoir or a man-made water storage shed because it is protected by layers of aquitard, or an impervious layer of rock, soil or sand that insulates it from the impacts of development and other human activity.

“The city’s water comes from a safe source which is regularly tested and shown to meet all standards for public water supplies,” Banham said.

He speculated that much of the contamination mentioned in recent news reports may have been a result of surface water that has been reused or recycled back into the environment.

“Very often during the course of a river you’ll see people take water out, treat it and discharge it back into the river,” he said. “In our case, in between the aquifer layers, there is a pretty good aquitard, or a fairly slow, fairly impervious layer so it takes a long time for surface water to migrate down into the aquifer, which is an added protection. So it’s pretty safe water.”

Banham added that today’s technology enables water professionals to detect more substances at lower levels than ever before.

“These compounds are being found at levels 1,000 times lower than typical drinking water standards,” he said. “The fact that a substance is detectable in drinking water does not mean the substance is harmful to humans.”

But even while the impacts on human health and wildlife are yet to be determined, Banham recommends not flushing prescription drugs down the toilet unless the accompanying patient information says it is safe to do so.

He also advised choosing pesticides and herbicides carefully and using them sparingly, as well as following directions on industrial products and using and disposing of them appropriately.

“All of us can do our share to protect our environment for now and for future inhabitants,” he said. “The less you contribute to source water contamination, the better for all of us now and into the future.”