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Trace Levels Of Compounds In Drinking Water Worry Environmentalists

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By Sabri Ben-Achour

D.C.'s Water and Sewer Authority says the water is safe to drink following a brief spike in chlorine levels in Northwest Washington yesterday. But some environmentalists remain concerned about trace amounts of what are called "endocrine disruptors" in the local water supply. Endocrine disruptors are any compounds that can mimic hormones.

Scientists suspect these disruptors are behind the 82 percent of male bass in the Potomac River that grow eggs or egg-like precursors in their reproductive tissue.

Endocrine Disruptors are found in a lot of things: prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, fertilizers and hand soaps. Trace amounts, barely detectable, make it into drinking water.

Tom Jacobus heads the Washington Aqueduct where D.C., Arlington, and Falls Church, Virginia get their drinking water.

"Yes, for the most part drinking water systems are not equipped to remove these compounds at these levels, and testing we have done show they pass through at extraordinarily low levels," he says.

There is no research to date that shows these compounds in trace amounts have any effect on human health. Still, Hendrik Belin, with environmental group Potomac Conservancy, is concerned.

"We need to do everything we can to keep these toxins out of our drinking water; it's better to be safe than sorry," says Berlin.

Jacobus, with the Washington Aqueduct, says his agency is researching possible treatment options for trace levels, just to be safe.

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