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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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Advisory of the Day



This story is brought to you in part by Waterloo Biofilter Systems

In our western pharma-centric lifestyle, it's easy to pop a few aspirin or get a quick prescription for some antibiotics without worrying what'll happen big picture wise once those chemicals have made their way through our body and provided us with a quick fix

Truthfully, not much happens at all at the individual level. However, put a group of individuals together with a wide variety of ailments, getting pumped full of biologically altering chemicals and all of a sudden the byproduct starts mattering quite a lot

A mid-sized hospital can have around 600 beds and can treat anywhere from a quarter million to a half million people per year. According to a 2010 survey by Practice Greenhealth, a network for eco-friendly health institutions, the amount of waste created by that sized hospital would be around 2 tonnes per day. This can include highly hazardous substances like used and expired pills, chemicals from labs, waste that's been infected by ailing patients (bloody rags etc.) and of course the flushed waste that's expelled by the patients themselves

Modern hospitals in Toronto are fairly well equipped to deal with most water waste but with a heavy rise in the use of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCP), new systems will eventually have to be put in place

Xogen Technologies Inc. a company in Orangeville, ON have been working on such systems. According to a consultant of theirs, Theresa Sauren, they have performed tests using electrolytic technology that, "Have been well over 90% successful at eliminating all contaminants we've measured, like Acetaminophen and various antibiotics."

Another firm based out of the Netherlands, that has had a lot of success with hospital waste systems is Pharmafilter. Founded by Eduardo Van Den Berg in Delt, they have a 360 approach to hospital waste that they believe is quite revolutionary. They looked at the economics of hospital waste management system and tried to come up with something that was efficient as well as environmentally friendly. Peter Kelly, their International Director of Waste and Waste Water, says, "when we first tell hospitals about out systems, they ask us if we're good at writing fiction, because this sounds like an episode of Star Trek."

They use and intelligent shredder that's connected into the waterway, that's similar to a high-tech garborator to break down some of the waste. It's then in turn sent to a small (21m*21m*7m) on site treatment plant that breaks down all the PPCPs in the water, in turn making it potable again and usable for flushing and cleaning within the hospital. Non-digested materials like glass and plastic are decontaminated and repurposed

Pharmafilter has implemented their solutions at five hospitals in Europe and have five more that they are scheduled to roll out. They plan to be in the North American marketplace at the end of 2017

In Canada, PPCP is becoming a highlighted topic with many associations weighing in. "Proper disposal of unused, unwanted and expired medications is essential to keeping pharmaceuticals out of Canadian waterways," said Adrien Landry, Health Products Stewardship Association (HPSA)'s director of operations. "HPSA's Medications Return (MRP) and Sharps Collection (SCP) programs play a fundamental role in ensuring unwanted medications and sharps products are appropriately handled and safely disposed of. Though an estimated 67 per cent of Ontarians disposed through the MRP in 2016, nine per cent still chose to rinse their medications down the sink or to flush them down the toilet. As most municipal water treatment systems have difficulty filtering these trace chemicals, HPSA's programs provide a sure alternative that safeguards Canadians against further contributing to the problem."

According to Kevin Wong, Executive Director of Canadian Water Quality Association, "Health Canada has been studying the effects on the natural environment and human health to develop guidelines and best practices. Those have not been established as yet." We will provide updated info as it becomes available.

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