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Military couple
at Fort Knox
Dozens of chemicals and pharmaceuticals — antidepressants, veterinary
hormones, evencocaine —have beendetectedinthe OhioRiver upstreamand
downstream from Louisville.
Researchers who conducted the study downplayed the potential effects for
the 5 million people along the 981-mile river who use it for drinking water. The
contaminants, they said, are in extremely low concentrations.
But outside scientists who reviewed the data noted that some of the pollu-
tants have been tied to feminization of male fish, effects that
should serve as a warning to people.
“When we see something this basic being altered in fish,
we should be concerned about what it’s doing to our own
health,” said biologist Peter DeFur, a research associate pro-
fessor at VirginiaCommonwealthUniversitywhospecializes
in chemical contaminants in the environment and was not
involved in the study.
The drugs and chemicals were found in a survey by the
eight-state Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission
eventhoughsewagetreatment efforts screenout asignificant
percentage of the contaminants.
Thesamplingat 22locations fromPittsburghtoPaducahis thefirst todeter-
mine sucha widespreadpresence inthe Ohioof what are called“contaminants
of emergingconcern” andarea newfocus of theU.S. Environmental Protection
Drugs, chemicals create Drugs, chemicals create
scary cocktail
for Ohio River
scary cocktail
for Ohio River
Low levels of contaminants in water supply
Photos by Pat McDonogh, above, and Michael Hayman, below, The Courier-Journal
The Ohio River yields catfish last week to Mark Holt at the Falls of the Ohio in Clarksville, Ind. A sampling of water at 22
spots along the river found medications and other chemicals. It’s unknown if the levels found pose any health threats.
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Within two weeks of winning
Kentucky’s Republican nomina-
tion for the U.S. Senate, Rand Paul
sent out at least four e-mails de-
scribing Democratic opponent
Jack Conway as “too far left,” link-
ing himto “his liberal Washington,
D.C., buddies.”
But a Courier-Journal reviewof
Conway’s public statements over
the last decade found that while he
does have liberal views onsome is-
sues, such as abortion rights and
health care reform, his outlook is
conservative or moderate on
others, including the death penalty
and gay marriage.
Even so, political observers —
on both sides of the spectrum —
who reviewed Conway’s state-
ments say Paul shouldn’t have
muchtrouble labeling Conway as a
liberal among Kentucky’s general-
ly conservative electorate.
“Taking this entire range of is-
sues into account, I would charac-
terize Jack Conway as a moderate,”
said Laurie Rhodebeck, a political
scientist at the Universityof Louis-
ville. “There are, however, a fewis-
sues that conservatives could ef-
fectively use to portray Conway as
Conway hasn’t always earned ‘liberal’ label
Observers say Jack Conway is easier
to label a liberal among Kentucky’s
generally conservative voters.
He leans left, but
not on all issues
By Joseph Gerth
The Courier-Journal
See CONWAY, A16, col. 1
Read more of U.S. Senate candidate
Jack Conway’s views on the issues. A17
Rand Paul says Conway should “run”
from the president’s policies. B1
By James Bruggers
The Courier-Journal
See OHIO, A4, col. 1
Despite conducting Superintendent Sheldon
Berman’s annual evaluation in June the past two
years, the Jefferson County Board of Education has
decided to wait until mid-July this year, allowing it
to take advantage of a newstate lawthat keeps por-
tions of the process secret.
Board chairwoman Debbie Wesslund said that
the board had initially planned to evaluate Berman,
who is now in the final year of his four-year con-
tract, inJune, but “the timing became problematic.”
“We spent most of May and June dealing with
the leadership audits (at six of the district’s strug-
gling schools) that required us to do some major
restructuring that required a lot of time and work,”
she said. “We also had a board member out of the
country for two weeks in June.”
But Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for The Couri-
er-Journal, said that the board is shutting out the
public from an evaluation that “should be done in
“It appears clear that at least one of the reasons
why the Jefferson County school board waited to
Berman review
delayed; board
to meet secretly
New law allows closed sessions
By Antoinette Konz
The Courier-Journal
See BERMAN, A6, col. 1
submarines working a mile under-
water removed a leaking cap from
the gushing oil well Saturday, start-
ing a painful trade-off: Millions
more gallons of crude will flow
freelyintothe Gulf of Mexicofor at
least two days until a new seal can
be mounted to capture all of it.
There’s no guarantee for such a
delicate operation almost a mile
below the water’s surface, officials
said, and a permanent fix of plug-
ging the well from the bottom re-
mains slated for mid-August.
“It’s not just going to be, you put
the cap on, it’s done. It’s not like
putting a cap on a tube of tooth-
Robot ‘surgeons’
begin delicate
repair operation
By Tom Breen
Associated Press
See OIL, A15, col. 1
A print exclu-
sive full page
on how you
can help. A8
The West
African nation
of Nigeria has
suffered oil
spills for
decades. A13
Available only
in your print
edition today.
Winnie Hepler of St. Matthews is a
water safety advocate but also needs
medications to ease her daily life.
៑How to properly dispose of medi-
cations. A4
៑Kentucky and federal lawmakers
strive for tougher rules on chemical
pollution of waterways. A5
in coupons
in today’s paper
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Louisville area: Most-
ly sunny today with
chance of storms
tonight. Chance of
showers tomorrow.
91 73 88
Arts I-1
Business D1
Class. F1, G1, J1
Deaths B7
Features E1
Forum H1
Lottery A2
Metro B1
Movies I-4
Racing C13
Sports C1
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The sanitation commission,
whichwas establishedbyCongress
and Ohio River states in 1948, and
its partner inthestudy, theEPA, say
there’s little information available
regarding human health risks of
what they found.
Outside scientists said there are
legitimate concerns that the con-
taminants, including medications
that pass through people and into
the sewage system, may pose
health risks to people.
Several drugs were detected at
trace levels in Louisville Water Co.
tap water in 2004 as part of a sepa-
rate national survey. Experts said
it’s likely that at least some drugs
and chemicals in the river are still
routinely passing through treat-
ment systems into drinking water.
“I don’t like the idea of taking
somebody else’s medication
through my water supply,” said
Leonard Buckner, a Louisville Wa-
ter Co. customer. “It seems like we
need to understand this better.”
Some home filter systems claim
toremove manyof the pharmaceu-
ticals. But thoseclaims havenot yet
been verified, said Tom Bruurse-
ma, who manages a water treat-
ment certification program for
NSF International, a nonprofit
public health and safety agency
that tests and sets standards for
water treatment systems.
‘The big unknown’
“Just because youfindit doesn’t
mean it’s a problem,” said Erich
Emery, a biologist and research
manager working on the study for
the commission, commonly
known as ORSANCO. “We have
the ability to detect (almost) any-
thing we want now.”
ORSANCO’s 279-page screen-
ing survey is almost entirely made
up of raw data. ORSANCO staff
and the EPAare working on a final
report to be completed early next
The Cincinnati-based commis-
sion this spring gave the data to its
member states. It also provided a
copy to The Courier-Journal,
whichreviewedit withseveral out-
side environmental health experts,
including Theo Colborn, who said
some of the detectedchemicals are
considered endocrine disrupters.
They can mimic or interfere with
hormones in the body, possibly af-
fecting tissues and organs.
The 1996 book Colborn co-au-
thored, “Our Stolen Future,”
brought international attention to
the issue, and she said research has
suggested potential links between
endocrine disrupters and such
medical conditions as attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder,
obesity, early puberty and infertil-
“The big unknown is the mix-
ture of these things being taken to-
gether,” said DeFur, the Virginia
Commonwealth biologist. “We
have no idea how to even think
about what that means.”
DeFur said the sampling results
are a confirmationof what has pre-
viously been found in states such
as Delaware, Minnesota and Cali-
fornia, and nationally by the U.S.
Geological Survey.
He andothers spoke of the need
for a precautionary approach.
“When you are faced with an
unknown and you believe there is
potential for harm, you err on the
side of human health,” said Dr. Da-
vid Tollerud, chairman of the de-
partment of environmental andoc-
cupational health sciences at the
University of Louisville’s School of
Public Health.
Nearly indestructible
The$85,000studywas designed
to look for 158 contaminants, in-
cluding 118 pharmaceuticals, hor-
mones andpersonal care products.
It also looked for perfluorinated
compounds, which have been
widely used in nonstick coatings
for pots and pans and in stain- and
grease-proof coatings for food
packaging and fabric.
All are essentially unregulated
in the nation’s waterways and
drinking water supplies and are
among thousands of chemicals
made by humans that are of poten-
tial concern.
Terry Collins, who leads Carne-
gie Mellon University’s Institute
for Green Science in Pittsburgh
and reviewed the ORSANCO data
for the newspaper, called it “a very
good study” that sheds light “on a
large number of compounds.”
“… Some of them are coming
back in our drinking water,” he
He saidthe perfluorinatedcom-
pounds, or PFCs, are nearly inde-
structible, and they build up in hu-
mans and animals.
The federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, which has
found as many as 12 PFCs in a na-
tional survey of human blood se-
rum, says peoplearelikelyexposed
by consuming them in food or wa-
ter or by using products that con-
tain them.
Some PFCs have been linked to
liver toxicity in fish and liver can-
cer in rodents, Collins said.
The drugs that were detectedin
the river water include some of the
most commonly prescribed medi-
cations, said Dr. George Bosse,
medical director of the Kentucky
Regional Poison Center in Louis-
ville. The study found medications
used to fight depression, anxiety,
high blood pressure, diabetes,
heart disease and infection.
Also frequently detected was
caffeine, as well as evidence of co-
caine and nicotine from tobacco
Our bodies don’t use all the
medication we take, and some gets
excreted in human waste. Drugs
also enter the environment when
people flush unwanted medication
downtoilets. Of those twosources,
the Food and Drug Administration
says human excretion produces
more drug contaminants.
Other sources of drugs in the
environment include runoff from
farms and water that passes
through landfills.
The drugs found in the Ohio
River include three prescriptions
in the medicine cabinet of St. Mat-
thews resident and longtime water
quality advocate Winnie Hepler.
The 82-year-old is battling chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease
and high blood pressure.
The medications, she said, al-
lowher togoondaily walks andat-
tend public events.
“I think I’d be confined to craw-
lingaroundinmyapartment other-
wise,” she said.
But she also said she hopes the
research leads to efforts to reduce
the contaminants in the water.
“We really need to know what
we are doing,” she said. “We don’t
want to do harm.”
Plant discharges
Manyof thesamples weretaken
above and below the wastewater
treatment plants of cities along the
river. Inmost cases, including Lou-
isville, the concentrations were
higher in the effluent.
For example, concentrations of
the anti-convulsive and mood sta-
bilizer carbamazepine, sold under
brand names including Tegretol,
increased 31 percent just below
Louisville’s Morris Forman treat-
ment plant on the Ohio River. The
concentrationof the PFCknownas
PFPeA was 58 percent higher; and
the concentration of atenolol, a
blood pressure drug, was 25 per-
cent higher.
The study also found the con-
centration of benzoylecgonine, the
urinary breakdown product of co-
caine, was 117 percent higher in the
Morris Forman effluent plume,
while caffeine was 59 percent high-
er, andthelevel of DEET, theinsect
repellent, was 81 percent higher.
The increase in the cocaine indica-
tor ineffluent plumes of Cincinnati
and Pittsburgh was even bigger —
in the 200 percent range.
Wastewater treatment plants
are not designedtoremove all con-
taminants, said Collins, the Carne-
gie Mellon chemist.
“The fact that you are seeing
spikes and you can trace them to a
treatment plant is a promising
thing,” he said. “We can do better.
We can lower those concentra-
Future filtering
For their part, ORSANCO offi-
cials say they are not sure that the
levels of what theyfoundinthe riv-
er need to come down.
“It wouldbeniceif wehadabet-
ter sense of which chemicals to
worry about,” said Peter Tennant,
deputydirector of thecommission.
The regulatorysystemis not set
up to deal with such a large inven-
tory of potential threats, Tennant
said, adding that the EPA typically
issues just three or four newwater
quality standards per year.
“That kind of pace just isn’t go-
ing to cut it for the thousands of
chemicals that are of emerging
concern,” Tennant said.
EPA officials declined to be in-
terviewed. But in a statement from
EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones,
they said they are studying a list of
104 contaminants — including, for
the first time, pharmaceuticals —
for potential drinking water limits.
In August, the EPA said it will
launch a survey looking for some
200 drugs and other chemicals in
the source and tap waters of about
50 drinking water utilities across
the United States, with the results
anticipated by late 2011.
At boththe Louisville Water Co.
and the Metropolitan Sewer Dis-
trict, officials said their current
treatment already removes some
contaminants identified by OR-
Water company officials say
what comes out the taps of its
customers meets all current wa-
ter quality standards, and offi-
cials at MSD say they are meet-
ing current discharge standards.
Representatives from both
said the contaminants could be
reduced further as they upgrade
their plants to meet new stan-
dards for unrelated pollutants.
For example, the Louisville
Water Co.’s new, $50 million ri-
verbank-filtration system that is
its Payne Treatment Plant near
Prospect should be able to re-
move 90 percent of drugs and
other chemical compounds, said
Rengao Song, manager of water
quality and research for the city-
owned company. Payne supplies
about 30 percent of the city’s wa-
He saidthe company is study-
ing additional treatment options
at its main Crescent Hill plant. It
has budgeted up $200 million to-
ward that work, which would be
done over the next decade, said
Vince Guenthner, a company
And MSD just started to look
intopotential designs andcost of
a third layer of treatment at Mor-
ris Forman, its largest plant, that
would meet potential new ef-
fluent limits for chemical ele-
ments such as nitrogen and
MSD Operations Director
Alex Novak said he will see
whether anyof thedesigns might
also be effective with drugs and
other unregulated chemicals. “If
there’s a solutionthat canalsoin-
corporate these endocrine dis-
rupters, then that’s the way to
go,” Novak said.
“The anticipation is that we
will (eventually) have to do
something,” he said.
Reporter James Bruggers can be
reached at (502) 582-4645.
៑Ask your doctor or pharmacist
if they’ll accept unwanted med-
៑Generally, government agencies
say don’t flush drugs down the
sink or toilet. But the Food and
Drug Administration keeps a list of
27 medications, such as morphine,
OxyContin, Percocet, Demerol and
methadone, that they recommend
people flush down the drain as a
safety precaution.
The Office of National Drug
Control Policy recommends the
following for other drugs:
Take drugs out of original con-
tainers and mix them with an
undesirable substance, like cat
litter or used coffee grounds.
Put the mixture in a disposable
container with a lid, such as an
empty margarine container or
sealable bag.
Remove or black out the pre-
scription drug labels and place the
drug containers in with the mix-
Seal and put in the trash.
៑Jefferson and Oldham County
drug drop-offs for the fall haven’t
been scheduled yet. Floyd County,
Ind., residents can drop off un-
wanted medications at Floyd
Memorial Hospital, 1850 State St.,
New Albany, from 2 to 3 p.m. the
second Thursday of each month.
The percentage increase of selected chemicals in
the Ohio River after passing through Louisville:
៑PFPeA breakdown product of stain- and
grease-proof coatings on food packaging, couches,
58.2 percent
៑PFOA used in chemical manufacturing, and to
make products resist fire and repel oil, stains,
grease, and water, and provide non-stick surfaces
on cookware
3 percent
៑Benzoylecgonine breakdown product of
117 percent
៑Caffeine stimulant in coffee and other bever-
59 percent
៑Carbamazepine anticonvulsive and mood
31 percent
៑Gemfibrozil reduces cholesterol and triglyce-
rides in the blood
34 percent
៑Atenolol reduces blood pressure and angina
25 percent
៑Sulfamethoxazole antibacterial
51 percent
៑DEET insect repellent 81 percent
៑Metformin anti-diabetic 23 percent
By Michael Hayman, The Courier-Journal
A worker monitors part of the filtration process last month at the Morris Forman wastewater treatment plant on the Ohio River at Louisville.
OHIO | River sampling finds drugs, chemicals; threat to health unknown
Continued from A1
In a sampling of Louisville drink-
ing water done in 2004, research-
ers, in cooperation with the
Louisville Water Co., identified
nine drugs in tap water at trace
៑Caffeine, stimulant.
៑Sulfamethoxazole, anti bacteri-
៑Meprobamate, anti-anxiety
៑Dilantin, anticonvulsive..
៑Carbamazepine, anticonvulsive
and mood stabilizer
៑DEET, insect repellant.
៑Iopromide, radiographic con-
trast agent
៑Ibuprofen, anti inflammatory
៑Gemfibrozil, reduces choles-
terol and triglycerides in the blood
Checking on
the Ohio River
Cai Cai Cairo
Sample taken at Ohio
River mile 600.5 (two-
tenths of a mile
downriver from the
Louisville Water Co.’s
Zorn pumping station
and intake).
Sample taken at
Ohio River mile
612.2, which is at
Morris Forman
treatment plant
Water sampling has identified dozens of essentially unregulated
chemicals and compounds in the Ohio River, a drinking water source
for 5 million. These include contaminants that mimic hormones and
prescription drugs and are a new focus
of EPA scrutiny.
Twenty-two locations were targeted
upstream and downstream of metro areas.
Some samples were taken from tributaries,
including one south of Columbus, Ohio.
By Joanne Meshew, The C-J
Time: 07-10-2010 20:42 User: lhack PubDate: 07-11-2010 Zone: KY Edition: 1 Page Name: A 4 Color: Cyan Magenta Yellow Black
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Legislation in Washing-
ton, D.C., and Frankfort, Ky.,
seeks to reduce pollution by
pharmaceuticals and other
Kentucky state Rep. Joni
Jenkins, D-Louisville, intro-
duced a bill earlier this year
to prohibit health care facil-
ities fromflushingdrugs into
toilets. It died in committee.
But she said she will be back
next year witha different ap-
proach to keeping drugs out
of the environment.
“I am looking at an un-
wanted-drug collection pro-
gram,” she said, adding that
legislation might also re-
quire pharmaceutical com-
panies to take back unused
drugs. “It’s time for us to at
least beawareof what weare
putting in the water and the
Brad Hall, executive di-
rector of the Kentucky Phar-
macists Association, said
hospitals aren’t flushing
drugs down toilets. He said
most workwith“reversedis-
tributors” that either return
the drugs to the manufactur-
er for disposal or have them
He said his group wants
to work with Jenkins on a
system that allows patients
to safely get rid of their un-
wanted medicines — and to
develop an incinerator in
Kentucky to encourage
proper disposal.
In Washington, there’s a
push to bring federal Toxic
Substances Control Act of
1976 up to date.
That lawoffers very little
control over the 83,000
chemicals used in industry
and consumer goods, many
of which are also making it
into our bodies, according to
the General Accountability
Office, the investigative arm
of Congress.
Inthe 34 years since Con-
gress passed the toxic sub-
stances law, the U.S. Envi-
ronmental Protection Agen-
cy has only been able to use
it to control just five. One
reason is that the law re-
quires the EPA to prove a
chemical is unsafe.
But that couldchange un-
der legislation introduced
this year by Sen. Frank Lau-
tenberg, D-N.J.
“EPA does not have the
tools to act on dangerous
chemicals and the chemical
industry has asked for stron-
ger laws so that their cus-
tomers are assured their
products are safe,” Lauten-
berg said in April, when he
introduced the Safe Chemi-
cals Act of 2010.
The chemical industry is
ready for a modernization of
the toxic chemicals law, said
Sarah Brozena, senior direc-
tor of regulatory and techni-
cal affairs for the American
Chemistry Council, a lobby-
ing group. But she saidit will
be important to get it right,
because chemistry perme-
ates the nation’s economy.
Lautenberg’s bill would
shift theburdentothechem-
ical manufacturers by re-
to the EPA why they believe
a chemical is safe.
Reporter James Bruggers can be
reached at (502) 582-4645.
Tougher chemical discharge rules sought
State and federal
bills offered
By James Bruggers
The Courier-Journal
McDonald’s asked cus-
tomers to return 12 million
glasses emblazonedwiththe
character Shrek.
Kellogg’s warned con-
sumers tostopeating 28 mil-
lion boxes of Froot Loops
and other cereals. Chef
Boyardee askedthe public to
return 15 million pounds of
Spaghetti-Os, and seven
companies recalled2million
Those were just a frac-
tion of the products recalled
in the United States in the
last few weeks.
Government regulators,
retailers, manufacturers and
consumer experts are con-
cerned that recall notices
have become so frequent
across a range of goods —
foods, consumer products
and cars —that the public is
suffering from “recall fa-
In many cases, people
simply ignore urgent calls to
destroy or return defective
One recent study found
that 12 percent of Americans
who knew they had recalled
food at home ate it anyway.
Hasbro recalled the iconic
Easy Bake Oven in 2007 be-
cause the fingers of two doz-
en children had gotten stuck
in the door, and the toymak-
er received249 more reports
of injuries over thefollowing
six months.
One5-year-oldgirl was so
seriously burned that doc-
tors had to remove part of
her finger.
“It’s a real issue,” said Jeff
Farrar, associate commis-
sioner for food protection at
the Food and Drug Adminis-
tration, who said even his
wife has complained about
the difficulty of keeping
pace with recalls. “That
number is steadily going up,
and it’s difficult for us to get
the word out without over-
saturating consumers.”
The problem is twofold:
Some people never learn
that a product they own has
been recalled, and others
know they have a recalled
product but don’t think any-
thing bad will happen.
“The national recall sys-
tem that’s in place now just
doesn’t work,” said Craig
Wilson, assistant vice presi-
dent for quality assurance
and food safety at Costco.
“We call it the ChickenLittle
syndrome. If you keep
shouting at the wind —‘The
sky is falling! The sky is fall-
ing!’ — people literally be-
come immune to the mes-
The government main-
tains awebsite, www.recalls-
.gov, offering information
about all kinds of recalls, and
consumers cansubscribe for
e-mail alerts about specific
But it amounts to over-
load, said William Hallman,
professor of human ecology
at Rutgers, the State Univer-
sity of New Jersey.
“There is so much infor-
mation out there, if you paid
attention to every recall no-
tice that came out every day,
you’dgonuts,” saidHallman,
who has studied consumer
attitudes toward food recalls
with a grant partially funded
by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. He conducted a
national survey last year in
which 12 percent of respon-
dents said they knowingly
had eaten a recalled food.
“Human beings are com-
plex creatures,” he said.
“Some do exactly the oppo-
site of what they’re told to
Any recall has two tar-
gets: retailers and consum-
ers. Government regulators
say most stores can quickly
pull defective products from
shelves and block their sale
at the cash register. The
tougher battle is getting the
consumer to act.
“We do a good job of get-
ting dangerous products off
store shelves, but we do be-
lieve the greatest challenge
is getting dangerous prod-
ucts out of the homes,” said
Inez Tenenbaum, chairman
of the Consumer Product
Safety Commission, which
oversaw 465 product recalls
in 2009, involving tens of
millions of items ranging
from circular saws to Jesus
Fish Beads.
If a product is relatively
expensive, consumers are
more likely to return it for a
replacement or a repair.
Car owners are among
the most responsive, return-
ing 73 percent of recalledau-
tos and 45 percent of re-
calledchildcar seats in2009,
according to the National
Highway Transportation
Safety Administration.
Of the 7.7 millionvehicles
Toyota recalled in the past
year, 3.7 million, or just less
than half, have been brought
in and repaired, said Brian
Lyons, a company spokes-
Officials fear
public ignoring
rash of recalls
By Lyndsey Layton
The Washington Post
Associated Press photos
McDonald’s has asked
customers to return 12 million
Shrek glasses after cadmium
was found in the paint.
Hasbro recalled its Easy Bake
Oven in 2007 because kids’
fingers would get stuck in it.
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