No drugs in Aspen’s water source |

No drugs in Aspen’s water source

ASPEN ” In response to a recent national scare that found pharmaceuticals in the drinking water of more than 40 million Americans, local officials have concluded that Aspen’s supply is drug free.

After receiving dozens of phone calls from concerned citizens, the city of Aspen hired Indiana-based Underwriters Laboratories Inc. to test the local water supply for drugs such as aspirin and prednisone, a corticosteroid hormone.

The results showed that none were present in the Aspen water supply.

“The time we spent answering questions, we thought we would put it to rest,” said Public Works Director Phil Overeynder, adding that the lab tests cost between $1,500 and $2,000.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, earlier this year the Associated Press discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas around the country.

Pharmaceuticals found in various water sources across the country include antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones.

Drugs get into the water because people take pills and their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

The federal government doesn’t require any testing and hasn’t set safety limits for drugs in water.

“Of course we monitor the watershed, but to be certain, we wanted to measure the chemical situation in our water,” Overeynder said. “This test proves that we do not have any of these pharmaceuticals in our water.”

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. tested for more than 80 drugs, including DEET, nicotine and penicillin. None of them were found to be in Aspen’s water.

“This was the kitchen sink … we wanted to make sure,” Overeynder said.

The only chemicals in Aspen’s water are chlorine and fluoride. Chlorine is used as a disinfectant in the wastewater process, and is required by the state and federal government.

Since the 1970s, fluoride has been added to Aspen’s water as a result of a citywide vote in favor of it. While fluoride is naturally occurring in the local water supply, the city of Aspen doubles the amount for a total of 1 part per million, which is equal to a milligram per liter.

Overeynder will soon be bringing the issue to the City Council of whether to continue adding fluoride to Aspen’s water supply. While there are health benefits of having it in the water, critics argue there are negative side effects and government shouldn’t be forcing fluoride on residents.

Fluoride was added to the local water supply more than three decades ago because most Americans weren’t getting enough of it. Now it’s in many fluids, including soft drinks.

“We just want to find out if, after 35 years, are we still on track?” Overeynder said. “The question is are we adding too much?”

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