So how do all of these new pollutants find their way into our river? They simply are flushed into the waste water system either by natural elimination by people or having households throw out old prescriptions and personal care products by flushing them down the sink or toilet.
From there they make their way to the wastewater treatment facilities where the facilities cannot treat the compounds or nano particles.
Unused drugs then become part of the effluent from the plant but are not treated by the process within the plant. They should be screened out but the most reliable system is reverse osmosis but that is expensive to install and maintain and is not used on our plants. So we are left with digestion as the system of disposal and that is not 100 percent reliable or effective in dealing with these new pollutants.
What can you do? If you are hooked up to a municipal waste water system do not flush unused drugs down the toilet or sink in your house. Mix them with mud, used cat litter or some other disgusting substance and then throw them in the trash or take them to your recycle centers hazardous waste collection day. Since manufacturers' should be responsibility for the drugs they produce, ask your pharmacy to take back unused drugs. Take unused personal care products to your toxic collection days at your recycle center.
David Deen is River Steward for the Connecticut River Watershed Council. CRWC has been a protector of the Connecticut River for more than half a century.