Wednesday April 15th, 2020 Water Blog


Part 2 – Chemicals in our water.

The world today experiences the consequences of uncontrolled development of multiple human activities in industry, transport, agriculture, and urbanisation. Emerging pollutants include the range of man-made chemicals (such as pesticides, cosmetics, personal and household care products, pharmaceuticals, etc.), which are in use everywhere and are seemingly essential for modern society. Up to now water is regarded typically as an environmental issue.  Agencies monitor water according to legislative requirements.  In Europe, the Water Framework Directive – or WFD, is the focus of monitoring practice in terms of improving the quality of our water.  The role of industries and consumers must be considered in the quest for improved water quality for all.

  • The growth in demand for personal care products increases pressure on our wastewater treatment plants to remove chemicals before they re-enter our rivers.
  • Increasing every-day usage of pharmaceuticals, leads to increasing levels of these pollutants in our freshwaters.
  • The usage of pesticides impacts our river biology, which in turn can impact the fish. Even the insect in the river has rights, some would argue.

Companies carrying out essential production and processes include pharmaceutical industries, chemical producers, energy producers, fertiliser producers, cosmetics producers. – and the list continues. Industry production activities and consumer habits driving increased production, are creating growing challenges for the water industry to deal with. This includes the need to remove chemicals from wastewater before it returns to rivers or the sea, or from drinking water before it reaches our tap. Our rivers and lakes are major sources for our drinking water supply, so keeping them free from chemical contamination should be a priority.

Not all companies behave well as we saw from the cancer-stricken residents of Hinkley, Calif., who in 1996 won a $333 million settlement from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for contaminating their tap water with hexavalent chromium. This story was the basis of the 2000 movie “Erin Brockovich,” starring Julia Roberts.  In 2016, “the real” Erin Brockovich, tells the Guardian Newspaper that Chromium-6 still threatens two thirds of Americans. Where is the agency responsible for providing safe water for its citizens?

A change in mindset is needed in terms of how we view water.  Water is an important public health issue across the globe.  Consumers can help by changing habits and usage levels of seemingly essential chemicals. Changing habits can change demand.


Another recommendation for your movie time during COVID-19:

Erin Brockovich is a 2000 American biographical film directed by Stephen Soderbergh and written by Susannah Grant. The movie is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts, who fought against Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG & E).

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