Pharmaceuticals in septic tanks are pumped into drinking water, student explains.
By Travis Doyle
Designers should start where there is nothing to make, only things to discover, Dwayne Bohuslav, architecture program coordinator, said April 17 at the EcoExchange Event in the EcoCentro building.
Bohuslav’s presentation was about the theoretical design of a community garden for EcoCentro as assigned to Students in his ARCH 2471, Architectural Design 4, in spring 2012.
“One of the ways we explored this idea with EcoCentro was to explore and break down our class into mappers, readers and roamers,” Bohuslav said.
The mappers explored issues of space through maps from the early days of Main Avenue and what eventually became the Tobin Hills area, Bohuslav said.
The readers searched through words written about different places.
“Very often the words and the maps coincide to talk about layers and timelines of history and what a place has come to be known through our occupancy, Bohuslav said. “Once these are developed, each layer and each story behind them are accumulated and help the students to develop the community garden.”
Third are the roamers, who go into neighborhoods to conduct interviews and take pictures of the area to identify what the neighborhood wants.
“When the three are combined, the students make not what they feel like making for the community but are what is most appropriate for the community,” Bohuslav said.
Bohuslav was one of several speakers at EcoExchangeEdu on April 17, a collaboration between various colleges that showcased multiple aspects of environmental awareness at EcoCentro.
The event included students, faculty and staff from this campus, Palo Alto College, Trinity University and the University of Incarnate Word.
Joseph Losoya, student from Palo Alto, showed a slide presentation of that colleges, America Recycles Day fashion show staged by the college’s COMM 2330, Introduction to Public Relations, class.
“The fashion show let every student strut their stuff down the runway in their reused style they found at Goodwill,” Losoya “You could say Palo Alto was setting trends fast. But why fashion? All college students love clothes.”
Lindsey Yazbek, sophomore from Trinity, discussed the origins of Trinity’s community garden.
“The idea for the garden started in spring ’11,” Yazbek said. “Then in fall ’11 we were approved for a semicircle of raised beds outside one of the academic buildings on campus.”
In spring of ’13 the campus collaborated with students from UIW to help them start their own garden.
“We went to their garden and then they came to ours to help us harvest what we had grown, and together we made a donation to the food bank of 11 pounds. It wasn’t a ton, but it was definitely a start for a small garden,” Yazbek said.
Chad Batey, pharmacy tech junior at the Feik School of Pharmacy at UIW, discussed the consequences of pharmaceuticals on the environment.
“We will focus on the excretion of drugs, how you are taking in drugs and excreting them,” Batey said. “Somehow they are going through the sewage filtration system and making it into the drinking water.”
Batey discussed drug metabolism in the body and drug excretion.
He used three examples of different drug breakdowns, and he identified the three drugs by color — green, blue, and orange.
Drug Green is taken in by the body but not broken down and is excreted into the system as an “active drug.”
Drug Blue is metabolized by the body and broken down into four parts.
This is an active metabolite; meaning functionality of drug is still intact even though it is broken down.
Drug Orange goes into the body and is broken down, and it loses its functionality.
This makes it an inactive metabolite.
Batey described how these drugs affect a septic system outside the city.
Inside the septic system, there is a scum layer of fats and oils, a wastewater layer commonly called gray water, and a sludge layer of solid waste.
A septic system works by the bacteria found in the system breaking down scum and sludge and combining it with the wastewater layer, which the state regulatory agencies deem safe to be pumped into soil and water systems.
In Drug Blue, the bacteria metabolize the broken down pieces of the drug when it enters the system, and then it is pumped out of the system as an inactive drug.
The active drug — Drug Green— is pumped into the septic, but it is resistant to bacteria, so when it is flushed out it ends up pumping unmetabolized pharmaceuticals into the system, which then will get into the water.
“Growing up, my sister was diagnosed with cancer. She would take chemotherapy, a therapy that kills cancer cells, and then come home and use the restroom,” Batey said. “As a result, the metabolized drug is defecating, and the drugs go into the septic system that continues on to kill human and bacteria cells in the septic system.”
This results in the drug destroying the bacteria that metabolizes the scum and sludge in the whole septic system, and then pharmaceuticals are also pumped into the water system.
“The aquatic species are affected even more so because the percentage of drugs to take effect on a fish is much lower,” Batey said. “Studies suggest they are already intact drugs in fish, like Prozac, which is a anti-depressant. … We have really happy fish swimming around.”
For more events, visit the EcoCentro page, www.facebook.com/EcoCentro1.