Doherty: Pharmaceuticals are poisoning NJ’s water supply, putting families at risk. We must act now. 

Doherty: Pharmaceuticals are poisoning NJ’s water supply, putting families at risk. We must act now.

In response to reports demonstrating that the water supply is awash with pharmaceutical pollutants, Senator Michael Doherty (R-Warren, Hunterdon, Somerset) is renewing his call for action on legislation he has long-sponsored to protect families statewide from the harmful effects of consuming contaminated water.

The United States EPA, in a conjunction with Riverkeeper and Cornell University, have confirmed that the Hudson River is heavily-polluted by commonly-prescribed pharmaceuticals such as anti-depressants, blood pressure, and cholesterol medications.

Pharmaceutical pollution is severely impacting all manner of water ecosystems and resources, according to a May 2019 report by The Atlantic. The resulting contamination of marine life also poses a threat to the commercial fishing industry.

“Everyone, regardless of where they live, should have the right to clean water,” Senator Doherty (R-23) said. “I’ve sponsored a bill for at least 10 years to study and combat pharmaceutical pollution, and although it passed out of committee last year, it has never reached the Senate floor.

“It is incredibly disappointing that so few environmental groups have joined the effort to remove pharmaceutical pollutants from our water. The consequences for further delays are dire.

“If we don’t act now, generations of children could suffer from serious health problems, all because they drank contaminated water. Our commercial fishing industry could also collapse, delivering a huge blow to the economy. By refusing to address pharmaceutical pollution now, we are literally putting New Jersey’s future in jeopardy.”

Senator Doherty’s legislation, S-1653, would establish the “New Jersey Water Supply and Pharmaceutical Product Study Commission. The purpose of the commission would be to investigate, quantify and evaluate the potential risks associated with pharmaceutical products in the State’s water supply and to develop recommendations for potential filtering techniques to remove pharmaceutical products from the waste stream.

Doherty first introduced the legislation in the 2008/2009 legislative session and has reintroduced it every two-year session since then. The measure was approved by the Senate Environment Committee in the 2016/2017 session, but was not advanced further. That represents the only consideration of the legislation in more than a decade.

Researchers suspect that most pharmaceutical pollution is generated from human waste, or from residents flushing unused medication down the drain. Doherty emphasized that further study of the effectiveness of New Jersey’s water filtration system is essential to reducing pharmaceutical contamination, and that his legislation is geared towards achieving that goal.

The 9-member commission established by the bill would be bipartisan and bicameral, and include the NJ DEP commissioner or a designee. The commission would be required to issue a report of its findings to the Legislature and the Governor.

In 2017, The Record reported that 83 of 117 water samples taken from the Hudson in recent years contained various levels of pharmaceutical contamination. Doherty added that the crisis of pharmaceutical contamination has been well-documented for a number of years, which makes the Legislature’s refusal to act all the more startling.

“Researchers have been sounding the alarm about the dangerously-high levels of pharmaceutical pollution in our water supply for years. Where is the outcry? We spend a lot of time focusing on other environmental issues in New Jersey, but the real threat to public health and safety is pouring right out of the tap,” Doherty said. “We need New Jersey’s environmental advocates and legislators on both sides of the aisle to come together this session and implement a legislative solution before it is too late.”

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