Valley Officials Claim Water is Safe

3/11/2008 Fresno Senate hearings are planned in response to an Associated Press investigation showing pharmaceuticals in public water supplies. Valley water officials explain what the findings mean here, and why they believe the water is still safe.

New findings are prompting questions about what's really in the tap water. The Associated Press Investigation found trace amounts of prescription drugs, ranging from anti-depressants to sex hormones, in 24 cities across the U.S. including San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"At first it can seem a little scary but when you actually look at the units of reporting quantities in drinking water, it's extremely small amounts," said Lon Martin with the Fresno Department of Public Utilities.

Fresno doesn't test for pharmaceuticals, and isn't required to. But water officials expect that to soon change. However they said a 2004 test at the wastewater treatment plant found none. "What I think the public needs to know is the potable water they drink is very safe and meets all the federal standards for potable water," said Martin.

To put it in perspective, the City of Fresno said look at it like this. The amount of pharmaceutical drugs found in the tap water across the U.S. is the equivalent to one drop from an eyedropper into an entire pool. And yet the impact of even this small amount still isn't known. It's not just drinking it one day or one glass of water or one bottle of water. If we drink that water for 60 years or 70 years, the long term effect is not known," said water researcher Dr. John Suen.

Dr. John Suen is a water researcher with the California Water Institute. He said there's no effective way to flush drugs out of the water, which can include bottled and filtered water. Suen believes while the E.P.A. should be worried, the public should not. "I think we should find some way to mitigate the problem, but I don't necessary agree we need to sound the alarm and everybody stop drinking water and buy bottled water. I think especially in Fresno, I will keep drinking our city water."

Experts stress you should never flush pills down the toilet but say the safest way to get rid of prescription medicine is contact your pharmacy, because each medication can differ.

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