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Officials say SCV water safe to drink

Posted: March 11, 2008 2:56 a.m.
Updated: May 12, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Despite reports that trace amounts of pharmaceuticals have been found in water supplies across the country, Santa Clarita residents are drinking safe, clean water, local water officials said Monday.
"The water here is safe to drink - that's the bottom line," said Steve Cole, general manager of Newhall County Water District.

An Associated Press investigation revealed that a vast array of pharmaceuticals - including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones - have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.

Cole and other water officials contacted by The Signal said the AP study is more about the sophistication of the latest testing technology than about the minute traces of chemicals found in the water examined.

"It's a story about how the testing has become so developed," Cole said. "Toxicology hasn't kept up because we don't know what the affects of these trace amounts are."

The AP story reported tiny concentrations of pharmacy drugs in drinking water, quantities measured in parts per trillion.

Newhall County Water District was not contacted by AP for the study. Cole said.

Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, the valley's water wholesaler, echoed a comment made by one of his peers who responded to concerns over water quality: "In order for any of these drugs to have any affect on a human being, that person would have to drink 120 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water."

Masnada was asked if his agency has any data to indicate the amount, if any, of pharmaceuticals in local water supplies.

"No we don't," he said.

"But, obviously, we are concerned about public health," he said. "It wasn't too long ago that we were able to report finding chemicals in parts per billion. The issue here is more about our ability to detect the presence of these chemicals.

"The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) needs to do more studies on this subject," he said about the cumulative effects, if any, of pharmaceuticals found in trace amounts of water supplies.

"The parts per trillion would not be detrimental to human health. However, the threshold may be lower for fish affected, and that's something that should be looked at," Masnada said.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency provides water for four local water retailers, including Newhall, Valencia Water Co. and Santa Clarita Water Division.

Masnada said the quality of CLWA water meets public health standards.

"The department of public health regularly monitors our treatment process," he said. "This is not about achieving a zero level (for trace amounts of any chemical); it's about ensuring that our water is safe to drink."

To put the pharmaceutical concentration into perspective, Santa Clarita water drinkers should bear in mind that the legislated threshold for some known carcinogens allows for 80 parts of a cancer-causing chemical to be present in one billion parts of water.

For example, the EPA has set a threshold for the amount of bromate - a known animal carcinogen - in water at 10 parts per billion.

One of the water districts contacted by the AP is the Santa Clara Valley Water District near Sacramento.
Like the Castaic Lake Water Agency, it is a member of the State Water Project, mandated to provide its constituents with a safe, reliable supply of drinking water.

But, before AP reporters came knocking, water was already being tested and treated for trace amounts of pharmaceuticals, a spokeswoman for the Northern California water district said.

"The Santa Clara Valley Water District has been pro-active in this area and has been doing some testing for pharmaceuticals," said spokesman Susan Siravo. "We have found only minute traces of pharmaceuticals in raw water testing. The testing is so precise we can test for amounts in parts per trillion."

This means for every trillion parts of water, there's one part of the pharmaceutical. Some scientists, in trying to put the ratio in perspective, have described one part per billion as one penny found in $10 million.

The water agency near Sacramento found in its raw water one or two parts of ibuprofen (the drug found in pain relieving medication such as Advil and Motrin) in a billion parts of water. It also found the same amounts of anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin) and the same amounts of anti-seizure medication.


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