Leaky Sewers - Likely Responsible for Large Amounts of Medications in Streams

Many of the Monterey Bay cities have started addressing groundwater contamination. As a Monterey Real Estate broker, we have to get these inspections done as part of a sale in most cases. These inspections and repairs are often required as a condition of sale for single family homes and sometimes townhomes. Condominiums are often exempt for individual owners. If there's a leak or break in the pipes, those will need to be repaired, typically by the seller. The main sewer lines in question are between the home and the sewer main in the street. Oftentimes the yard has to be dug up, or if the connection at the main is faulty, the street. This can be expensive due to traffic mitigation and the depths sometimes of these connections. 

These leaking sewer pipe issues can be from the old clay or transite pipes that were used and having joint separations, to plastic lines that tree roots have invaded the couplings. Some plumbing companies pull in completely new single piece polyethylene that is then put in the line of the old faulty line. This "trenchless" style is the least disruptive of landscaping and walkways. A single line with no joints to separate or for trees to get their roots in is probably the best long term solution in my estimation. 

Typically these inspections are up to $350 to do with the camera, though some are free. That video file is sent to the appropriate jurisdiction and the public works personnel then directs what they think needs to be done to bring the pipe into compliance. It had been my belief the offending issues were more fecal matter contamination, but as you can see, quite a few drugs are causing potentially a much greater and more disruptive issue in the ecosystem. Fecal matter has always been a part of nature but these drugs have not.

The 2021 infrastructure bill may not address this issue but I'm sure that it's going to be a topic for discussion.

If you're thinking I want to "sell my Monterey home", give me a call and let's discuss the things that we need to do to get you the highest possible price.


Pharmaceutical compounds can harm the environment. However, in waterways that don't receive treated wastewater, these pollutants aren't expected to be present. Now, researchers reporting in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology have found that amounts of some medications carried by a stream in Baltimore were substantial, despite generally low concentrations over the course of a year. Because wastewater plants don't impact this stream, the high loads are likely coming from leaking sewer pipes, they say.

Thousands of medications are approved for human use in the U.S., and many of them are harmful to microorganisms, algae and insects when they make their way into lakes and streams through wastewater. The concentrations of pharmaceutical compounds are usually used to determine their impact on organisms living in streams and rivers. However, contaminant concentrations may change quickly from one day to the next, and so singular snapshots do not correctly illustrate their cumulative effects on aquatic life. Instead, load -- the mass of a pollutant that passes through a stream or river over time -- better represents the risks to downstream environments, where the contaminants end up. While loads are used in regulations for traditional pollutants, such as nutrients, they have not been considered for pharmaceuticals. So, Megan Fork and colleagues wanted to get an idea of the yearly load of medicines transported by an urban stream in Baltimore.

Sewage Pipe Polluted WaterThe researchers tested water from an urban stream draining into Baltimore's Inner Harbor in Maryland on a weekly basis for a year. At the outflow point, they found 16 pharmaceutical compounds whose presence and amount varied considerably from week to week, ranging from concentrations of parts per trillion to parts per billion. Trimethoprim -- an antibiotic -- was found most regularly, but acetaminophen -- a common pain reliever -- was at the highest concentrations. The team used their weekly measurements to estimate annual loads of pharmaceuticals, calculating that the equivalent of 30,000 doses of antidepressants, 1,700 doses of antibiotics and 30,000 tablets of acetaminophen entered the Inner Harbor through the stream. Interestingly, this watershed did not receive wastewater treatment plant effluent, so it's likely these compounds are coming from leaky sewer pipes. Improvements to aging infrastructure could reduce this source of harmful compounds to urban streams and other waterways, the researchers say.

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/08/210818084007.htm

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