Down the Drain

Down the Drain
Down the Drain

Try This at Home

Monitor what goes down the drains in your home. Never put cleaning solvents, pesticides, paint thinners, automobile oil, gas, or medications down a drain.

Support land conservation and efforts to limit development near public supply wells. This study and many others show that reducing the amount of development near public supply wells is the best way to prevent pollution from getting into the groundwater near these wells.

Investigate the National Drinking Water Database. This interactive resource, assembled by the Environmental Working Group, covers 48,000 communities throughout the United States.

Chemicals from consumer products and pharmaceuticals that flow down the drain can seep from septic systems into drinking water supplies. In 2009, Institute researchers partnered with nine public water suppliers to collect samples from 20 wells and two distribution systems supplying drinking water on Cape Cod. Samples were tested for more than 90 emerging contaminants, including pharmaceuticals, hormones, personal care products, herbicides, alkylphenols, flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals.

The researchers found that three-quarters of the wells and both distribution system samples contained low levels of at least one of 18 detected chemicals. The two most commonly detected chemicals were sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic commonly used to treat urinary tract infections and pneumonia, and perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, used in stain-resistant and nonstick coatings and fire-fighting foams. Levels of sulfamethoxazole and the pharmaceutical dilantin in some samples were among the highest reported in U.S. drinking water.