By Cynthia McCormick
Excerpt: A new study by the Silent Spring Institute in Newton shows that sewage treatment plants aren't any better at removing a new class of contaminants from treated water than septic systems.
Researchers found that antibiotics and chlorinated flame retardants, for instance, pass through both systems relatively unscathed.
The results weren't surprising because wastewater treatment systems are made to remove pathogens and solid waste, not the chemicals contained in medicine, herbicides, plasticizers and other products, Silent Spring Institute research scientist Laurel Schaider said.
But the study shows that systems being developed to protect the Cape's coastal waters from nutrient overloading and algae blooms should also take steps to protect drinking water from what scientists call "emerging contaminants," she said.
Many of the chemicals are considered hormone disrupters that act like estrogen, which has caused breast cancer cells to grow in a laboratory setting.