Monthly Archives: September 2011

5 CHEMICAL THREATS to the GREAT LAKES

ONTARIO RESIDENTS BE ON THE ALERT!   The Great Lakes have faced various threats for years, from industrial pollution to invasive species, but another challenge worries many researchers these days – the emerging chemical threat.
5 Chemical Threats to the Great Lakes by Brian Kemp, CBC News Posted: Sep 22, 2011 7:43 AM ET
The Great Lakes have faced various threats for years, from industrial pollution to invasive species, but another challenge worries many researchers these days — the emerging chemical threat.
It’s not just pesticides, as scientists are finding worrying levels of pharmaceutically active compounds such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, anti-epileptics, and beta blockers in lake water. As well, hormones, pesticides and alkyl phenols have been identified as threats.
The five Great Lakes straddle the U.S.-Canada border. Heavy populations exist in some areas of the lakes while other locations are quite remote. Both countries have been monitoring pollution in the lakes in recent years.
These products and medicines flushed down toilets and dumped into sinks are not stopped at water treatment plants, which are not geared to deal with them.
A new report, prepared for the International Joint Commission by two Windsor, Ont. Researchers, has outlined the threats the chemicals pose. The International Joint Commission was formed by the U.S. and Canadian governments to find solutions to problems in the Great Lakes Basin.
The compounds “are receiving attention due to their potential adverse effects on animals and humans at low levels of exposure,” said the report, co-authored by Merih Otker Uslu and Nihar Biswas of the University of Windsor. They sound a warning later in the report, which is a review of data collected from 2007-11.
The toxic effects on aquatic organisms, alterations on the reproductive system of aquatic organisms and the promotion of the development of resistant bacterial strains representing a health risk to humans, are among the adverse effects of these compounds.
“Although chemicals of emerging concern have been detected in different environmental compartments for a long-time period, their environmental releases have not been completely regulated by the regulatory communities in the United States and Canada.”
Uslu and Biswas called for a comprehensive risk assessment of each chemical of emerging concern.
Pharmaceutical substances
Sewage treatment plants are not designed to handle pharmaceutical substances, the report suggests, leading to a “vast” array of drugs in varying levels in the Great Lakes.
“The main concern regarding the presence of pharmaceutical residues in the aquatic environment has been focused on antibacterials which may promote the development of resistant bacteria strains representing a health risk to humans,” said the International Joint Commission report.
Substances such as antidepressants, antibiotics, and steroid hormones that eventually make it into groundwater that is then tapped into a house “may also pose adverse effects on humans.” The levels of pharmaceuticals found were quite low, and the study does not delve into how much water needs to be consumed before health is affected.
Levels of caffeine have been found as well.
Pesticides
The warning about pesticides in the lakes is simple and disturbing: “Many pesticides are suspected of being endocrine disruptors which can cause sexual abnormalities and reproductive failure.”
Elevated levels of pesticides are found in the Great Lakes during late spring and summer when agricultural activities are in full bloom. The studies considered by Uslu and Biswas found elevated levels of pesticide in watersheds that flow into the lakes, passing golf courses and farms on the way.
In one study, seven great blue heron colonies were sampled in the St. Lawrence River in 2001 and 2002. Samples were analyzed for 21 pesticides. More than half of these 21 pesticides were detected in about 50 per cent of the samples, the study stated.
The level of pesticides in the lakes, as well as the type of chemical, depends on where the test samples are taken. The Humber River watershed has higher levels of the chemical atrazine than the Don River watershed because it includes more agricultural area.

Flame retardants
Flame retardants are chemicals that can be added to paint or other materials.
“These substances are highly toxic and persistent in the environment. Due to high lipophilicity and stability, they have the potential for accumulation in sediments and bioaccumulation in wildlife,” said the report.
Some flame retardants have chemical structures similar to PCB, and “are also considered potential endocrine disruptors.” Some types of retardants originate from manufacturing processes and can come from the air.
Synthetic musk fragrances
The musks are used in a number of products, including perfumes, cosmetics, detergents and cleaning products.
Bisphenol A, used to make plastics, has been widely detected in drinking water, in Detroit and Windsor, Ont., and in the water of 17 other Ontario communities. (Canadian Press)
“Due to their lipophilic nature, synthetic musks could not be effectively removed in sewage treatment facilities and are retained in sewage sludges,” said the report.
Among fish taken in Chicago, the chemicals were found in all of the samples.
Bisphenol A
“Bisphenol A is a well-known plasticizer used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It is a highly persistent endocrine disruptor and therefore subjected to risk assessment studies by regulatory authorities around the world,” said the report.
It has been widely detected in drinking water, in Detroit and Windsor, Ont., and in the water of 17 other Ontario communities.
Bisphenol A was declared a toxic substance by Canadian authorities in October 2010. It does not pose a danger to human health though through food packaging uses, Health Canada said.

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Points to Ponder/ Our Concerns

These are chemicals we all need to take a good look at. We find these chemicals in our water here in Ottawa, in low amounts but how low is safe. I know for our customers a Reverse Osmosis drinking system is a piece of mind product that takes the worry out of water.

Hot TopicToday – Alberta Oil Sands’ water usage for extracting bitumen

Excerpts from “Full Steam Ahead – Getting the right mix of resource management, environmental protection, and economic development in Alberta”, by John Nicholson in Sept./Oct. 2011 issue of Water Canada:
In a world hungry for oil, all signs point to growing production from the second largest source in the world.
…development of the Alberta oil sands is not going to end any time soon. … experts and companies are working to find solutions for treatment and management of water used in these processes.
…the vast sands in northern Alberta are bound with bitumen, a tarlike mixture of hydrocarbons that is solid at room temperature. Surface mining is used to extract the bitumen at the surface, while in-situ technologies are used to extract the bitumen from further beneath the ground. The process, however, requires steam.
One of the more popular methods to extract bitumen is steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). SAGD is an enhanced oil recovery technology that involves pumping steam into horizontal wells.
Depending on the extraction method and its efficiency, the production of one barrel of oil requires anywhere from one-half to four barrels of fresh water. The water is needed for in-situ extraction (that is, SAGD) and for processing the bitumen into oil.
The oil industry uses both groundwater and surface water to extract bitumen from the oil sands and process it. Oil sands operations use approximately 174 billion litres of water per year. This accounts for approximately five per cent of Alberta’s total water use.
With plans to expand oil production, the utilization of water from the river is predicted to grow from its current one per cent to over two per cent. Once water has been found and used, the concern becomes the wastewater produced as a result of extracting and processing. The sources of wastewater include condensate from SAGD, tailings water from froth treatment plants, and the existing tailings ponds. Wastewater from oil sands production contains free oil, particulate (sand), organics, silica, hydrogen sulphide, mercaptans, and dissolved solids. Water management, treatment, and reuse have become pressing issues for the oil industry as the remaining sources of water since surface water supplies are growing scarce, groundwater sources have naturally high salt concentrations, and the use of tailings ponds is heavily criticized.
With support funding from federal and provincial governments, many of the oil companies in the region are currently undertaking research to learn how to properly manage and treat water. Wastewater from the oil sands is very abrasive, is low in temperature, and contains petroleum-related chemicals such as naptha. More than one pilot-scale system has failed in meeting the treatment in testing. A number of Canadian-based technology companies have demonstrated success in treating water and wastewater from the oil sands. Here are two: Edmonton-based Titanium Corporation Inc. and London, Ontario-based Purifics ES Inc.
Titanum Corp. has developed a propriety technology that recovers heavy minerals and bitumen contained in the waste tailings streams. One process … has been described as a blend of existing Canadian oil sands processing technology with conventional mineral sands processing technology.
Another technology developed by Purifics and being pilot tested by companies developing the oil sands is its patented photocatalytic UV-activated, titanium dioxide advanced oxidation process (AOP), or PHOTO-CAT. What makes PHOTO-CAT unique compared to other AOP technologies is that it is chemical free-it does not require or use peroxide or ozone. A PHOTO-CAT system has demonstrated complete toxicity removal of tailings water when combined with CF-CMS. This allows for water reuse or the recharge of groundwater.
Companies involved in the oil sands are quickening their adoption of innovative and advanced treatment systems, including technologies from Canadian companies. It is reasonable to expect significant progress to be made in water management in the oil sands over the next decade.

My comment:

This just adds to our concerns about our world’s fragility of water. Very hot topic for many people including those protesting today here in Ottawa about this. The pipeline connecting Texas to Alberta’s dirty gold will be fought for years to come. Many natural and man-made oils in our environment cause water issues ranging from cancers to mass fish kills.