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Compounds of Emerging Concern:  An Evolving Water Quality Issue

Congressional Briefing 
Friday, March 23, 2007
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
2253 Rayburn House Office Building

Scientific research indicates that the production, use, and disposal of numerous substances that offer improvements in industry, agriculture, medical treatment, and common household conveniences may have potentially adverse effects on human health and the environment. Present in the environment at low levels, these compounds of emerging concern (CEC) have recently been the focus of media attention and public concern. This briefing is an opportunity to learn more about this evolving and challenging water quality issue from scientists working at the forefront of the topic. 

Only recently have researchers created analytical tools to detect CECs at very low levels, and there is a lack of knowledge regarding the occurrence, possible impacts, and levels of exposure that may affect the health of humans and wildlife. Over the last decade, research has expanded our understanding of the issue, but more is needed.  Research and assessments by the USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program help to determine the occurrence, sources, transport, and exposure effects of these substances. In addition to presenting USGS findings, speakers at the briefing helped to explain this complex issue and provided information on related scientific, voluntary, and regulatory activities.

Briefing Speakers:

Dr. Jeff Armstrong, Senior Scientist, Orange County Sanitation District:  Concepts to define CECs, sources in the environment, and why the issues are so complex.

Dana Kolpin, Emerging Contaminants Investigations Chief, USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program:  USGS findings on CECs, evidence of environmental impacts, and research needs.

Dr. Ed Ohanian, Office of Science and Technology, Office of Water, U.S. EPA:  Voluntary efforts to reduce CECs in the environment, the regulatory framework related to CECs, and EPA’s plans and activities.

The briefing was moderated by Rebecca West, WEF Vice President and Director of Technical Services, Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District

The briefing was sponsored by the Water Environment Federation in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey.