San Francisco has become the first U.S. city to require drug companies to pay for the disposal of their products, even as the issue simmers before the Supreme Court.

The city is now the third locality with such a law, which went into effect Friday, and other counties are eyeing similar steps. The new measures irk drug makers, but they’re also arguing they could lead to requiring all sorts of manufacturers — like makers of tires or batteries— to pay for safe disposal programs.

“These statutes are taking off, we see there’s a movement in California to expand beyond the pharmaceutical industry,” said Mit Spears, general counsel for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

“This is the first time where a county or local government has reached out and forced companies in another state to provide a service to their local residents,” Spears said. Last fall, PhRMA and two other drug associations lost a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit against the first of such laws, this one in Alameda County, California, and the Supreme Court is expected to say next month whether it will hear the case.

Drug disposal programs aren’t new — many localities run them — but until now, drug makers haven’t had to pay for them.

Advocates for the new laws say they’re important for combatting the rising problem of prescription drug abuse and ensuring drugs don’t end up in the water supply when people flush them. Since drug companies profit from selling drugs, they should also shoulder corresponding safety costs, they say.

“Why is it fair to privatize 100 percent of the profits and socialize 100 percent of the costs?” said Heidi Sanborn, director of the California Product Stewardship Council. “These are the same companies that don’t like taxes, don’t want fees, don’t like big government, and we’re offering them a program where they get to write their own regulations.”

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Heidi Sanborn is a panelist at the AC 2015 What2Flush Summit meeting. For information on the summit meeting, click here.

CASA and the California Water Environment Association (CWEA) are jointly sponsoring two biosolids and renewable energy seminars on May 12-13, 2015. The focus of the seminars will be on innovative biosolids treatment technology and renewable energy production and utilization. Speakers will provide factual information on new technologies, operating experience and performance data, and the status of ongoing research if not yet at full scale.

The sessions will be full day events held at two different locations on consecutive days, each with a slightly different agenda. The Northern California seminar will be hosted at Central Contra Costa Sanitary District in Martinez on May 12, and the Southern California seminar will be hosted at the City of Los Angeles Hyperion Treatment plant in Playa del Rey on May 13. Registration will be open next week and both CASA and CWEA will be distributing announcements very soon. The cost for each event will be $165 in advance ($185 if registering onsite) and Continuing Education Units will be available. For more information contact Greg Kester at [email protected].

Check out The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission sewer rap!

The City’s sewers work 24/7, 365 days a year; the Sewer System Improvement Program (SSIP) is a multi-billion dollar citywide investment underway to ensure it’s safe now and continues to protect public health and the environment for generations to come. Check out the lyrics at www.sfwater.org/sewerRap.

Video Credit: BAYCAT www.baycat.org

Imagine a future where every Californian and visitor to California understands and values our water, thus ensuring a sustainable future. Water is sustainable development. Water is our world. Water is health. Water is nature. Water is urbanization. Water is industry. Water is energy. Water is food. Water is equality. Water is our world.

Managing urban and rural areas of California is an important development challenge for the 21st Century. Thousands of miles of pipes makes up California’s water infrastructure. Agencies operating Water Resource Recovery Facilities (formerly known as publicly owned treatment works) will be crucial to our water supply future.

Join us  April 29th at 8 am at the Opening General Session of CWEA’s Annual Conference as we discuss Crafting Water for California’s future with the following water professional leaders:

  • Celeste Cantu, Executive Director, Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority
  • John Helminski, Public Utilities Director, City of San Diego
  • Assembly member Anthony Rendon (Via Skype)
  • Jim-Fiedler, Chief Operating Officer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Water Utility Enterprise

Poop could be a goldmine — literally. Surprisingly, treated solid waste contains gold, silver and other metals, as well as rare elements such as palladium and vanadium that are used in electronics and alloys. Now researchers are looking at identifying the metals that are getting flushed and how they can be recovered. This could decrease the need for mining and reduce the unwanted release of metals into the environment. A talk about their recent work is was given at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

“If you can get rid of some of the nuisance metals that currently limit how much of these biosolids we can use on fields and forests, and at the same time recover valuable metals and other elements, that’s a win-win,” says Kathleen Smith, Ph.D.

“There are metals everywhere,” Smith says, noting they are “in your hair care products, detergents, even nanoparticles that are put in socks to prevent bad odors.” Whatever their origin, the wastes containing these metals all end up being funneled through wastewater treatment plants, where she says many metals end up in the leftover solid waste.

At treatment plants, wastewater goes through a series of physical, biological and chemical processes. The end products are treated water and biosolids. Smith, who is at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), says more than 7 million tons of biosolids come out of U.S. wastewater facilities each year. About half of that is used as fertilizer on fields and in forests, while the other half is incinerated or sent to landfills. Smith and her team are on a mission to find out exactly what is in our waste. “We have a two-pronged approach,” she says. “In one part of the study, we are looking at removing some regulated metals from the biosolids that limit their use for land application. [Read more]