Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Jordan Berti makes this connection here in an article about prescription and non-prescription drugs found in fish.

The article entitled ERE Student Berti on WRE article, Drugs found in Puget Sound Salmon from Tainted Wastewater, was reported by Lynda V. Mapes from the Seattle Times in their February 23rd 2016 online news.  The news relates to the WRE domain of water hydrology and the specific issue of the water quality. In summary the article directly addresses the topic of drugs as a chemical of emerging concern in the estuaries of the Puget Sound and the fish species that inhabit these waters.  Currently most wastewater treatment plants do not strip water of contaminants of emerging concern before effluent is discharged into the environment because it is not required by EPA guidelines. This is not only a concern for drinking water sources being contaminated but also for the wellbeing of agriculture and native species that are found in these water bodies.  In the estuary waters surrounding the sewage treatment plants in the Puget Sound researchers found over 81 different drugs.  Drugs that were found in high enough concentrations to be detected and of concern include but are not limited to Flonase, Aleve, Tylenol, Paxil, Valium, Zoloft, Tagamet, Nicotine, Caffeine, Fungicides, Antiseptics, Anticoagulants, and Cocaine.  This sound is not a direct drinking water source however; humans and other animals often ingest the fish caught from this sound. Many of the drugs detected in the effluent waters were also found in juvenile chinook salmon and resident Staghorn Sculpin.  Based on my engineering education my informed opinion is the WRE facts in the news are accurate, as I show with the following research citations. Harvard Health publications (2011) emphasize how signs show that drugs are having harmful effects on aquatic life.  A nationwide study done in 1999 and 2000 by the USGS found drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80% of the rivers and streams tested (NY DEC).   The DEC also emphasized how feminization of fish is occurring due to poor water quality containing high levels of hormones.  Based on critical thinking on this news story, I think the article has missed reporting important information on how the water from the effected estuaries is being used down stream and how it could be affecting other ecosystems.

Water resources engineering effects global, economic, environmental, and societal areas because it has hydrologic and hydraulic systems at many scales. This hydrology water quality issue of drugs impacts WRE context areas of society and the environment. Societal hydrology issues usually relate to how water is affected by people and in tern how people are affected by it. Environmental hydrology issues usually relate to the disruption of water quality and how the ecosystem is affected by the disruption. Based on the article the hydrology in this local environment has been adversely affected by society. The water quality in this environment has been degraded from the use and incorrect disposal of drugs into the wastewater system and eventually into the watershed.  Based on the article however society will be the ones who pay the ultimate price when they ingest fish containing all of these drugs they are not prescribed.   In a supporting article posted by the Associated Press (AP) Investigation team, the drugs in drinking water can have alarming and devastating effects on not only human cells but also animal cells. Also in the supporting article from the AP Investigation Team, researchers who tested 35 drinking water reservoirs found harmful pharmaceuticals in 28.  The cause and effect between drugs found in fish and the environment/society is as follows- humans send drugs into water systems every day. This water is treated and released into the environment where it is absorbed by organisms that are affected directly and can have an indirect effect on the health of society.



Figure1: Researchers netting juvenile Chinook salmon from the Puget Sound for drug testing, source Seattle Times


Figure 2: Puget Sound estuaries and fish netting sites tested for drugs in relation to wastewater treatment plants, source Seattle times


URL:  http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/drugs-flooding-into-puget-sound-and-its-salmon/



“Department of Environmental Conservation.” Drugs in New York’s Waters. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

“Drugs in the Water – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health. N.p., 1 June 2011. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

Mapes, Lynda V. “Drugs Found in Puget Sound Salmon from Tainted Wastewater.” The Seattle Times. N.p., 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.

“The Associated Press: Pharmaceuticals Found in Drinking Water, Affecting Wildlife and Maybe Humans.” The Associated Press: Pharmaceuticals Found in Drinking Water, Affecting Wildlife and Maybe Humans. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.