Medicating the Bay

Estuary News

Pharmaceuticals are pouring into the Bay, even if we never flush pills. Compounds in painkillers and other common oral drugs are still excreted from our bodies, routed through wastewater treatment plants that can’t remove them completely, then discharged to the Bay where they may harm marine life... A better option, suggests Sejal Choksi-Chugh, executive director of advocacy group San Francisco Baykeeper, may be the use of treatment wetlands such as at Petaluma’s Ellis Creek plant or San Lorenzo’s Oro Loma. Also known as constructed wetlands, these facilities use natural processes involving wetland vegetation, soils, and their associated microbes to slowly clean and filter water. “Some of the emerging science shows that they can help remove pharmaceuticals from the waste stream,” she says, all at a fraction of the cost of upgrading to reverse osmosis.