BIRMINGHAM —Mitchell “Mitch” Kostich, research biologist with EPA’s Office of Research and Development, spoke with Water Technology Assistant Editor Maria Woodie about pharmaceuticals in wastewater.

In part one of this special two-part podcast exclusive, Kostich offers insight into concentrations of pharmaceutical residues in wastewater plants and what these levels may mean concerning the quality and safety of the wastewater effluent.

On common misconceptions regarding the levels of pharmaceuticals in wastewater, Kostich explains, “The biggest misconception arises from the way the data is often reported…What they’ll do is report, ‘Hey, somebody looked in a water sample and they found x number, dozen or so, pharmaceuticals.’ And so the message that takes hold is: There [are] pharmaceuticals in water. But what is not really discussed is how low the levels are [and] how low those concentrations are.”

He continues, “I think most people do not really have a sense for how incredibly sensitive modern, chemical analytical measurements can be, and don’t really have a feel for [what] a 1 part per trillion (ppt) of a contaminant means — which is often the range that we are detecting these things in. And it’s kind of hard to reflect on the fact that 1 ppt means that you might be drinking that water for the rest of your life and never come close to the therapeutic dose of the drug. So there is a disconnect between the numbers of detections we are seeing, and putting the numbers in some sort of context in terms of the likelihood of creating effects.”

Other highlights in the podcast include: A synopsis of the EPA webcast “Pharmaceutical Residues in Municipal Wastewater,” pharmaceutical effects on aquatic life versus human life, the role of water treatment technologies and more.

Be sure to be on the lookout for part two of this podcast between EPA and Water Technology regarding bio agents in water.

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