Introduction: Recycled Wastewater
Over the years, state agencies adopted policies that allowed extensive wastewater discharges into river drinking water sources, while the public was sold the myth that the wastewater was so highly treated, it was almost drinkable. A few hardy souls even gave demonstrations to that effect. They now call this water, “recycled water” giving the impression that it is just as good as potable, which is not the case. Meanwhile, the vast majority of roughly 84,000 chemicals on the market are not even monitored, let alone regulated. Significant health and birth effects to both humans and wildlife are known to sometimes occur at extremely low exposures to some of these chemicals. Furthermore, no one knows how these chemicals merge into more dangerous compounds.
After years of discussion, and pressured by the need to greatly augment the State’s water supply, the State Water Board authorized The Recycled Water Policy in 2009. That policy was seen as provisional until a Scientific Panel addressed the issues of CEC’s (Contaminants of Emerging Concern). A major report released a year later contained the Committee’s findings. In 2012, amendments were recommended to the Recycled Water Policy that incorporated those findings, including a controversial determination that monitoring of specific endocrine disrupting chemicals in irrigated wastewater used for landscape irrigation is not necessary because of minimal risk.
The Policy set an ambitious State goal of recycling 2.5 million acre feet of wastewater (approximately 325,000 gallons per acre foot) by 2030. Yet a new scientific study was released in March, 2012, by 12 highly respected other scientists in the field, that considered about 850 studies on endocrine disruption that all indicated that in some circumstances, minute exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals can cause birth defects, autism, obesity, diabetes, heart problems, cancer (especially of reproductive system), Parkinson’s disease, etc. See study: Hormones and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Low-Dose Effects and Nonmonotonic Dose Responses.
In order to facilitate this new policy, the Regional Board developed a Basin Plan Amendment that allows ‘incidental runoff’ in areas where recycled water irrigation occurs. The circumstances under which this would be allowed has been extremely controversial, due to the proclivity of runoff where spray irrigation occurs. RRWPC has documented extensive runoff in Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa and have heard it occurs in other areas as well. This runoff is particularly egregious in the summer, when flows are very low, (and may become lower if the Fish Flow Project is authorized), human use is high, and assimilation of toxins by waterways is poor. The following links address these issues: