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Compounds of Emerging Concern Advisory Panel

The City of Flagstaff recycles over 700 million gallons of water each year for conservation purposes.   By recycling we mean wastewater that is sent from our homes or businesses to a treatment plant where it is highly treated to meet state and federal reclaimed water quality standards.  Once treated, the water is termed "reclaimed water, recycled water or effluent" and enters a separate distribution system after being chlorinated.  Reclaimed water is used not only in Flagstaff but by communities around the world in lieu of drinking water for irrigation purposes.  The City has undertaken this proactive water conservation strategy for the past 20 years in our community.   Recently, there have been numerous studies both locally and nationally regarding trace (or extremely low concentrations) of certain chemicals found in water around the United States that are not regulated by the U.S. EPA.  These are collectively known as Compounds of Emerging Concern (CECs) and include pharmaceuticals, personal care products, endocrine disrupters and antibiotic resistance genes.  In Flagstaff, CECs can enter the wastewater system at our homes, businesses and medical care facilities.  

The City Manager, Kevin Burke recognizing the importance of water to the future of our community, organized an Advisory Panel of 12 local, state and nationally recognized researchers, scientists and industry professionals to help understand what CECs mean locally.  Flagstaff has been known around the State as a leader in its willingness to tackle tough issues relating to water head-on and the creation of this Advisory Panel is just one more example.   

The Advisory Panel first met in January 2013 and was asked to help the City determine what to study and identify steps that are necessary to better understand the effects, if any CECs have in our raw, treated and reclaimed water.   The focus of discussions has initially been around the “human health impacts” as opposed to animal, aquatic or environmental impacts.  The City recognizes that all of these are important to our community; however, we needed to start somewhere.

The Advisory Panel issued an Interim Report in July 2013 which contained numerous findings, advice, recommendations and priorities to the City on CECs in drinking water and reclaimed water.  

Advisory Panel Members

A few of the findings and recommendations from the City Manager’s CEC Advisory Panel Interim Report  are paraphrased below:

Drinking Water

  1. The U.S. EPA from the advice of various national scientific panels and analytical studies has developed a list of currently unregulated CECs that may warrant further consideration for regulation in drinking water.  The list of contaminants is referred to the Contaminant Candidate List #3 (CCL#3) and is focused on human health impacts.  Antibiotic resistant genes or microbes are not included on the list at this time.  The Advisory Panel recommended the City consider evaluating which contaminants on the list are being utilized or prescribed within the Flagstaff community as background information in preparation for potential future regulation.

Reclaimed Water

  1. There are no data at the present time to suggest that the continued use of reclaimed water provides undue risk to human health. 
  2. The Advisory Panel recommended the City monitor for four (4) chemicals on the CCL3 drinking water list in the City’s reclaimed water. 
  3. A subgroup of the Advisory Panel was tasked with outlining a cutting edge epidemiological and microbial study, and with searching for funding with partners or agencies regarding CECs.  The conclusions of this type of study will help to provide a better understanding of what it means if the City detects antibiotic resistance genes or bacteria in reclaimed water in Flagstaff.
  4. The Advisory Panel suggested a parallel study to compare the effects of various water treatment technologies on the removal of CECs, specifically antibiotic resistance genes in reclaimed water. 

 
For more information on the Advisory Panel or Flagstaff’s water supply in general, please contact Bradley M. Hill, R.G., Utilities Director at 213-2400 or .