The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board presented the City of Palo Alto's Regional Water Quality Control Plant with the 2013 Dr. Teng-chung Wu Pollution Prevention Award on September 11, 2013, which coincided with National Pollution Prevention Week. The annual award honors the legacy of Dr. Teng-chung Wu, who spent decades advocating for pollution prevention while working at the Board. The award recognizes innovation, excellence, effectiveness, and collaboration.
The award recognizes the City of Palo Alto for its proactive efforts to address a field of pollutants dubbed "emerging contaminants" — chemicals that are now being discovered in water which pose unknown risks to human health and the environment. Such chemicals if not sufficiently controlled may become major drivers of future water quality treatment requirements because current wastewater treatment plants are not typically designed to remove more than biological pollutants from human waste. Emerging contaminants include thousands of chemicals used in every day products including pharmaceuticals, personal care products such as antibacterial soaps, endocrine disrupting chemicals found in plastics and perfumes, nanomaterials used in bacterial-killing clothing and household items, pesticides, and perfluorinated (stain and stick-resistant) compounds.
Palo Alto has been a leader in emerging pollutants research, education, and programming since 2002. The City analyzed its waste streams for emerging contaminates, partnered with universities and non-profits to publish studies and developed fact sheets for public agencies. Its efforts to keep pharmaceutical waste from entering wastewater and San Francisco Bay has resulted in the local collection of more than 22 tons of pharmaceutical waste for safe disposal. Future plans include leading a regional hospice education and outreach project and advocating for long-term solutions such as extended producer responsibility–programs which require manufacturers to fund and manage the disposal of products. In October, the City will promote the No Drugs Down the Drain campaign; to find a convenient disposal location, go to www.cleanbay.org or call 650-329-2598.
The Regional Water Quality Control Plant serves and is funded by six communities including the East Palo Alto Sanitary District, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Stanford. Visit http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/sanfranciscobay/dr_teng_chung_wu_award.shtml for more information about the Water Board's annual award.