These national news stories about Baltimore these past few months are really not making us look good.
This one, at least, doesn’t involve our embattled police department. But it’s still not good news. When scientists from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies analyzed the water in six streams running through urban Baltimore, they found traces of amphetamine and methamphetamine residue. To determine whether such drug residues were actually harmful, the researchers created an artificial stream in their lab, one that mimicked the concentration level of the drugs found in the city streams. The results were not encouraging: Biofilms were suppressed; bugs grew faster; bacterial life changed. Such effects are particularly worrying because these plants and insects form the foundation of the food chain in these waterways.
Of course, Baltimore is not the only place with this problem. A study done 15 years ago found traces of drugs (all kinds!) in 80 percent of the 139 streams it tested. But the authors of this study offered a new twist: They think that aging sewer systems (you know, the ones that cause all those water main breaks) are one reason the drugs are getting into our waterways. “We need to invest in maintaining and repairing our aging underground water infrastructure and potentially develop new technology,” study co-author Emma Rosi-Marshall told CNN.
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