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Studying Emerging Issues Protects our Customers Now and in the Future

Some chemicals that are not regulated by the EPA are currently being studied for their presence in drinking water sources and treated drinking water. These chemicals are referred to as emerging compounds because their presence in drinking water was not studied or detected in the past. Due to advances in testing and the possible increase in the sources of these compounds, their detection at very small levels is now possible.

While these compounds may be detected at very low levels in water, people are regularly exposed to products containing these compounds in much higher concentrations through medicines, personal care products, food, and other sources. The levels at which most of these compounds are found in water are very small in comparison and their presence does not necessarily pose a risk to humans. However, sensitive subpopulations may be at greater risk from exposure to these compounds and should consult their healthcare providers for additional guidance.

Emerging compounds include pharmaceuticals, personal care products and endocrine disrupting chemicals. Endocrine Disrupting Compounds (EDCs) are chemicals that interfere with the action of natural hormones responsible for reproduction, development and behavior. Examples include pesticides, herbicides and natural and synthetic hormones. Pharmaceuticals (P) are prescription and over-the-counter medications for animals and humans. Personal Care Products (PCPs) are common personal hygiene products such as lotions, fragrances and cosmetics. Together these compound are referred to as EDCs and PPCPs.

Emerging Compound Testing

DC Water and many other water utilities across the country monitor unregulated compounds as required by EPA's fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR4). Arlington County will begin monitoring the Washington Aqueduct's treated drinking water for several unregulated compounds starting in March 2018 through June 2018. DC Water will begin monitoring at the same site starting in July 2018 through October 2018. DC Water will post both sets of results as they are processed. DC Water will alert you if there is ever a concern regarding your drinking water quality. Review DC Water’s drinking water quality report for complete water quality information.

Reducing the presence of emerging compounds

Although advanced treatment technologies may be useful in minimizing exposure to these chemicals, the most effective approach is to reduce the presence of these contaminants in our source water. DC Water works closely with regional stakeholders through the Potomac Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership to address the problem of emerging compounds in our drinking water supply.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the quality of your water, please contact the Drinking Water Division at 202-612-3440.