January 12, 2010
Health Facilities, NY Settle Over Drug-Flushing
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 4:21 p.m. ET
NEW YORK (AP) -- New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced a settlementTuesday with five health care facilities that flushed pharmaceutical waste into the New York City watersheds.Cuomo reached agreements with the two hospitals and three nursing homes thatdisposed of painkillers, antibiotics, antidepressants, hormones and otherpharmaceuticals through toilets and sinks and into the watersheds, his office said. Theflushes potentially put about 9 million people's drinking water at risk, Cuomo said.The three watersheds -- the Croton, Catskill and Delaware -- cover nearly 2000 squaremiles and drain into reservoirs and lakes providing drinking water to New York City'sroughly 8 million residents and another 1 million in several northern counties -- nearly half the state's 19.4 million residents.The hospitals and nursing homes are located within the watershed in Putnam andDelaware counties north of New York City. Although such facilities are allowed to flush many -- but not all -- drugs through toiletsand sinks, the nursing homes and hospitals nonetheless agreed to stop disposing of alldrugs in that manner to protect the watersheds, Cuomo said.Instead, the facilities will give the drugs to waste management facilities, he said.The attorney general's investigation of the facilities on the watersheds was prompted inpart by a series of stories by The Associated Press in 2008 that revealed the drinking water of at least 51 million Americans contains minute concentrations of a multitude of drugs, said Katherine Kennedy, Cuomo's special deputy attorney general forenvironmental protection. Water utilities, replying to an AP questionnaire, acknowledged the presence of dozens of drugs in their supplies. State tests of New York's watersheds in 2008 that also foundtrace amounts of drugs also led to Cuomo's investigation, Kennedy said.