Danger feared from chemicals getting into bay Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Chemicals found in household products like antibacterial soap and plastic bottles are found in sewage water that is discharged into San Francisco Bay, posing a threat to wildlife and humans, according to new data. Sophisticated sewage systems treat biodegradable food, human waste and metals, but they are not designed to capture the thousands of tons of synthetic chemicals used to manufacture consumer products, say officials at the East Bay Municipal Utility District, who found evidence of potentially harmful substances in sewage from businesses and homes. Chemical ingredients are leaching out of toothpaste, deodorant, canned food liners and vinyl and polycarbonate plastics. They pass through the municipal sewage plants virtually untreated, the experts say. Over three months last year, EBMUD grabbed two dozen samples from sewage pipes leading from a veterinarian's office, a nail salon, a diaper service and a coin laundry, among other businesses, as well as from a medical clinic, a hospital and manufacturing plants. Samples also were collected from residences from Richmond south to Oakland. The results will be released today in a report by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization with offices in Oakland. The inspectors found three types of chemicals -- phthalates, bisphenol A and triclosan. All are suspected of interfering with hormone systems of humans and wildlife. Phthalates are banned in some toys in San Francisco, and the state Legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit forms of the chemical in toys intended for children under 3. Of 19 locations tested, 18 had sewage discharges containing at least one of the chemicals, and many had more than one. Out of three tests on treated wastewater, all three samples contained phthalates, and two contained bisphenol A or triclosan. "We're involved because we know that these compounds are out there, and we cannot treat them in the wastewater stream," said Charles Hardy, EBMUD spokesman. The utility is one of dozens of agencies -- including cities, counties and businesses -- that discharge treated sewage, storm water or other wastewater into the bay. "Evidence shows that the chemicals are harmful to aquatic life and potentially to humans," Hardy said.
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