Infrastructure / On the water frontChicago testing Lake Michigan water for drugs

Published 21 April 2008

Lab tests found traces of pharmaceuticals in the water of Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for millions in the greater Chicago area; city water authorities launch a thorough water testing campaign

On St. Patrick’s Day, Chicago paints the Chicago River green. Unfortunatley for the City of Broad Shoulders, there are many other chemicals in the water of the river and in Lake Michigan where the Chicago River’s water goes. Water officials in the city said they are now testing Lake Michigan drinking water for the presence of pharmaceutical drugs and other unregulated chemicals (on the growing problem of pharmaceuticals in U.S. drinking water, see these HSDW stories — 17 March 2008 story and 11 March 2008 story). The announcement last Thursday came on the heels of a Chicago Tribune report that found trace amounts of prescription drugs and other chemicals in local drinking water, the newspaper reported.

The Tribune, which hired an independent lab to test tap water, found very small amounts of a prescription anti-seizure drug, a common painkiller, a nicotine byproduct, caffeine, and two chemicals used to make Teflon and Scotchgard. Following publication of the story, Water Department commissioner John Spatz said the city decided last month to conduct its own studies. “This is an important environmental issue that has been brought to light,” Spatz said. “We should be monitoring and making sure it isn’t getting in the water. And we need the health agencies to figure out if there is anything to be worried about.”