December 20th, 2019
MUB responds to story on pharmaceutical discharges
On December 11, a story on pharmaceutical discharges was posted by an online news source called STAT. A significant focus of the story is the purported release by Mylan Pharmaceuticals of residue from various products it manufactures in Morgantown, West Virginia. In response to the article, we offer the below statements in Question & Answer format.
Is MUB’s drinking water safe?
Absolutely. MUB not only meets, but in most cases far exceeds, drinking water standards. To learn more please review our annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) at mub.org/ccr.
Do Mylan’s alleged discharges of residue from pharmaceutical products impact drinking water in the Morgantown area?
No. Because our wastewater treatment plant is located miles to the north (downstream) of our water treatment plant (the Monongahela River flows north) and is separated by a dam, it would be virtually impossible for any discharges by Mylan to affect our water intake.
Does MUB monitor for pharmaceuticals in its drinking water?
No, not specifically. The existence of residue from the production of pharmaceuticals in wastewater is a complex and emerging topic. MUB primarily depends on the authority and expertise of state and federal regulators, and because of the complexity and recent emergence of the issue, standards applicable to wastewater treatment facilities such as that operated by MUB have not been established. What MUB does is monitor for compounds required by state and federal laws. The result of this monitoring for drinking water can be found in our annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) available at mub.org/ccr. As the CCR demonstrates, MUB not only meets but in most cases far exceeds drinking water standards.
Does MUB treat for pharmaceuticals during wastewater treatment?
Conventional municipal wastewater treatment processes, in many (most) cases, do little or nothing to reduce pharmaceuticals, which may simply “pass through” and be discharged in the treated plant effluent. The issue is that the science for many of these compounds continues to emerge, such that there are no clear standards or limits, and in some cases, there is no consensus on the proper protocols for testing/measuring pharmaceuticals at wastewater concentrations. It’s important to note that MUB remains in full compliance with all regulations applying to wastewater discharges
Is MUB responsible for inspecting Mylan’s compliance with wastewater discharges?
MUB issued Mylan an industrial waste discharge permit. That permit fully complies with the federal and state requirements for a pharmaceutical industry sanitary sewer customer. MUB samples Mylan’s discharges into the sanitary sewer system on an annual basis at the points of discharge. Mylan also is required to self-monitor its discharges on a quarterly basis and report those results to MUB. The recent data collected through said monitoring program has been fully compliant with the permit requirements, has not provided any indication of an upset or inadequacy within the Mylan facility and, therefore, MUB is not aware of any recent violations by Mylan of the industrial waste permit. In fact, MUB recently requested information from Mylan regarding the condition of its drain plugs. Mylan is in compliance with our Industrial Waste Permit program, which we administer according to state and federal requirements.
The article characterizes the condition of the Monongahela River badly. What does such a reference say about our drinking water?
Such references are unfair and we can’t address comments by unidentified sources. We will, however, observe that the quality of the Mon River has improved significantly in recent decades compared to the 1950’s and 1960’s. Seven years ago we completed an upgrade to our water treatment plant. Among other improvements, this upgrade included the addition of a second water filtration process, membrane filtration. This process is so effective that in 2017 the Associated Press touted MUB as an elite filtration plant. What’s more, when the Flegal Dam and Reservoir and connecting pipeline is completed, it will provide us with an additional cleaner, purer secondary raw water source.
We also maintain a Source Water Protection Program and monitor a large amount of chemical constituents of environmental concern to our raw water sources, as well as various threats to our watershed, data for which is available at https://mub.org/ast.
Is there more that MUB could be doing in its wastewater treatment process to protect against pharmaceuticals?
MUB does not possess the authority to create guidelines outside those specified by state and federal agencies. We also do not possess a budget adequate for offering full protection against pharmaceuticals, especially understanding that the chemical makeup of the vast number of pharmaceutical compounds can be greatly different. Any comments regarding pharmaceutical monitoring should be made to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
Did MUB have any input into the article?
Yes. The author contacted us with several factual inquiries since August 2018. We fully complied with each of her requests.
Any comments on Mylan’s responsibilities in the release of pharmaceuticals to our waterways?
We cannot comment on Mylan. Please direct any questions related to Mylan to their corporate offices.