Prescription Drugs in Water Supply

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According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), studies have shown that pharmaceuticals and other chemicals substances – such as fragrances and cosmetics - are present in some of our nation’s water bodies, and have probably been present in water and the environment for as long as humans have been using them. The drugs that we take are not entirely absorbed by our bodies, and are excreted and passed into wastewater and surface water.  Research suggests that there may be some ecological harm when certain drugs are present. To date, scientists have found no evidence of adverse human health effects from the small level of pharmaceuticals being in water.

People contribute to these chemicals being in the water supply when:

  • Medication residues pass out of the body and into sewer lines,
  • Externally-applied drugs and personal care products wash down the shower drain, and
  • Unused or expired medications are flushed down the toilet.

The Town of Cary is committed to providing high quality drinking water that meets all regulatory standards and protects the health of its water customers. Highly trained professionals routinely analyze our water for hundreds of contaminants, including many complex volatile and synthetic organic compounds, and maintain strict compliance with all federal and state drinking water regulations.

The Town operates a water treatment plant with advanced treatment processes which go well beyond conventional treatment. Treatment strategies at the Cary/Apex Water Treatment Facility include a multi-barrier approach of two-stage ozonation and activated carbon treatment in addition to conventional water treatment processes to eliminate trace concentrations of many distinct types of contaminants. Ozone and activated carbon have been identified as best available treatment technologies for many emerging contaminants of concern. By already employing these technologies in our water treatment facility, the Town is well positioned to address the issue of emerging contaminants and future regulations that may be implemented in response to this national issue.

Safe disposal of prescription drugs

To discourage Cary citizens from flushing unused prescriptions down the toilet and into the Town waterways, the Town now offers a permanent drop box at the Cary Police Department, 120 Wilkerson Ave., to allow residents to properly dispose of expired or unused medicine. The Town also participates in events that allow for proper disposal of medicine: Operation Medicine Drop, sponsored by Safe Kids North Carolina, the N.C. Department of Insurance, State Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration; and National Pill Take Back Day, sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Recognition for Safe Water

Cary has received the Directors Award of recognition from the Partnership for Safe Drinking Water, an association of water utilities and government, for going far beyond federal requirements in an effort to achieve excellence in water quality. The Town has received the award annually since 2003, including 2015.

In 2011, the Town of Cary was named a charter member of the Partnership for Safe Water’s Distribution System Optimization Program, which defines excellence in distribution system operation and displays commitment to superior water quality. Cary is also a member of the Partnership’s Treatment Plant Optimization Program.