Are We Ready for Potable Reuse of Wastewater?



By Dr. Edo McGowan, Guest Editorial

As to toxins, carcinogens, endocrine disrupters as well as pathogens, the standards are badly in need of review. The regulatory community in the U.S. is well aware of this deficit but is moribund. Industry pressures on legislatures and regulators should be reviewed. There are a number of papers discussing the failure of current water quality standards to actually protect public health. Most of these standards were never designed to deal with the far more complex mix of xenobiotics, carcinogens, pathogens, endocrine disrupters, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, etc., as found in water. These toxins can also concentrate in crop tissues when that water is used for irrigation.

Thus, there are several levels of conflict impacting the protection of public health. Many are political. We are now finding that an increase in standards may well impact the bottom line (profits) of many water supply districts as well as agricultural enterprises. This brings in a series of competing factors that planners and policy makers must begin to understand if public health is to be protected. The fact is that the underlying science to get clean water requires a multi-disciplinary background that most planners and decision-makers they serve do not have. That there is a serious laxity in regulatory controls over contaminants in water, came up during one of the Environmental Law Conference meetings in Yosemite. Of the various papers discussing the failure to regulate, also known as “non-action,” what then was found can be directly applied the current situation discussed in the present article.

At the Yosemite meeting, one topic was pharmaceuticals in water. Of particular interest was the analysis of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) by one of the US/EPA drinking water toxicologists. Keep in mind he is discussing drinking water which must now include toilet to tap, converting recycled sewage water into drinking water, which is being widely proposed.. His delivered paper ended with the following: “Bottom line on almost all of the “emerging” contaminants that have attracted attention: It will be a long time, if ever, before they are regulated under the SDWA.”

If the US/EPA is having trouble with Non-Action, then what of areas with less sophisticated backup and funding? How realistically is water quality testing measuring the toxins now in water?

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.


Dr Edo McGowan: resume

In response to: Water On-Line PFAs

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Citizen Reporter
1 year ago

Letter Submitted to Central Coast Water Board….

Will you be testing the various sources of irrigation water at the point it is used (POU) on the crop? Recycled water when tested at the production facility if often non-detect (ND) or very low counts based on MPN. When we subsequently test at the POU or sprinkler head, the counts that were originally ND are now off the chart. This appears to be either sloughing biofilm formed within the pipe’s lumen breaking off or viable but non-culturable (VBNC) bacteria that have resuscitated This eventuality has been confirmed by published studies in the peer reviewed literature.

Some time ago, the agency supplying the recycled water sought to gain permission to over drive the pumps going through the filters by 50%, That increased pressure may disrupt the ability to sequester the antibiotic resistant genes as well as ability to control other small pathogens.

There are some 45 miles of irrigation pipe within the Salinas and Letter forwarded by Dr. Edo McGowan….

Pajaro Valleys that can carry recycled. These pipes have a history of puncture. There is also an intervening reservoir. Thus, absent testing water at the POU, and with disk diffusion or qPCR, the question is not answered.

I’d like an answer as to whether you plan to test water at the POU? If not, why not?

Harwood, in testing recycled water noted that current standard tests are insufficient. Her paper is a boiled down version of WERF report 00-PUM-2T.

Dr Edo McGowan

William Hicks
William Hicks
1 year ago

Does chlorination have any beneficial use to safeguard recycled water?

William Hicks
William Hicks
1 year ago

It used to be that PPM (parts per million) was the measuring stick but since the law requires that if “any” measurable level is now the measuring stick, is it reasonable that we should be concerned about PPB (parts per billion), just because we’re capable of making that measurement?