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U.S. Geological Survey Finds Surprising Things in Many Streams

U.S. Geological Survey Finds Surprising Things in Many Streams

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Paul Nelson, KSL Newsradio Officials from the U.S. Geological survey have found some surprising things in many streams nationwide. So, is there anything we should worry about when we turn on the tap?

The U.S. Geological Survey wanted to get a better picture on what exactly regular citizens are putting in the water. U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Susan Thirous says, "It wasn't so much to say, ‘What are you drinking?' It's mainly to provide a baseline of what's in these streams."

In 1999, the U.S. Geological Survey tested nearly 140 streams across the country, including one here in Utah to see if pharmaceuticals are in the water. "That site is a composition of multiple sources including ground water discharge," says Thirous.

Now, there's good news and bad news. The bad news first: The survey did find traces of all sorts of chemicals including Tetracycline, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Codeine, caffeine, asthma inhalants and even things like cholesterol. Any traces of these chemicals seem minute at worst. The good news is that no humans should be drinking this water because according to Thirous, "The sample was taken on the Jordan River, we assume at 1700 South."

Thirous says if you want to find any chemical that's been in the Salt Lake Basin, you can find it in the Jordan River. "I don't think you would have to worry about water leaking from the Jordan River in that location down into the ground water aquifers used for drinking water supply."

Hydrologists don't know how it will affect ecosystems living in the river or in the Great Salt Lake. As for drinking water, they weren't looking for pharmaceuticals but other chemicals. She says, "Mainly things like solvents and pesticides that won't degrade naturally. If they get down into that aquifer it's very difficult to get them out."

Trace elements were reportedly found as well. "Generally, you'd think, in the Salt Lake Valley, it's fairly well protected. Things shouldn't be getting down hundreds of feet to our drinking water supply, but they were there."

The chemicals were found in the water before it was treated, so no one is drinking these compounds. Other geological survey officials say they have detected traces of lithium in Emigration Creek during a check for E-coli.

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