“RECLAIMED WATER” – an analysis – Part 2 of 3

“RECLAIMED WATER”  – an analysis   –  Part 2 of 3

Lyndon Taylor

by Lyndon Taylor


11/1/11 – In my previous article I shared with you some thoughts on what one expert in golf course management had to say about reclaimed water and the health of the golf course.



In this article I would like to examine the impact that reclaimed water could potentially have on human health issues. Understand that I am not advocating a position with regard to reclaimed water, but I do believe that informed decisions are those that are made when all of the facts are laid before us. The final conclusion is yours, after considering the risks and benefits of this proposal.

As a starting point, let’s examine where the City of Banning is talking about using the reclaimed water. In a recent meeting at Sun Lakes it was revealed by the City that the plan is to use the reclaimed water on BOTH the golf course and the common areas at Sun Lakes. We must presume that by the common areas they are referring to those areas not on the golf course and not directly owned by one of the homeowners. Green belts, the area around the club houses, areas bordering the golf course, streets, and other non-golf course areas owned jointly by the Homeowners Association would seem to fit this definition.

Will you come in contact with the reclaimed water? Of course you will, particularly if you are a golfer, but even if you aren’t, you will come in contact with the common areas as you travel about in Sun Lakes and contact either the reclaimed water or its residue.

At this point, let’s examine what the State of Florida has to say about reclaimed water:


With regard to reclaimed water, “risks remain, such as the public’s exposure to viruses and parasites which cannot be killed by chlorine (source). Extremely small viruses can slip through the filtration system at the reclaimed water plant and carcinogenic chemicals, called THMs, are formed by chlorinating the extremely organic wastewater. Possibly toxic algae blooms may occur in the reclaimed water holding area. Reclaimed water can include pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupters from hospitals, homes and industry, which cannot be removed with current purification processes. Furthermore, reclaimed water is being tested using drinking water standards, which are inappropriate to the potential problems of purified sewer water.”


Florida’s Department of Environmental Health also makes the following recommendations:


  • Do not drink reclaimed water
  • There must be no body contact with reclaimed water and wash immediately and thoroughly after any contact with it
  • Do not use reclaimed water on edible plants
  • Keep pets and children off the lawns watered with reclaimed water.
  • Do not get reclaimed water on cars or in swimming pools
  • Do not get reclaimed water in private yards.

According to the presentation recently made at Sun Lakes, the filtration system is 90% efficient in removing harmful pollutants. A follow-up question should be, “exactly what pollutants are removed, and what pollutants are passed by the system?” If we assume (for the purpose of illustration) that the golf course receives 100,000 gallons of reclaimed water a day, then 10,000 gallons of water dumped on the golf course theoretically have pollutants of one kind or another!  Is this a risk we are ready to assume?

It is obvious that the wind blows in Banning and what is the impact of wind-borne pollutants getting into the yards of the homes surrounding the golf course? How about thinking about this during your next backyard BBQ?



Another point worth considering, according to the Environmental Protection Agency‘s Guidelines for Water Reuse, viruses from sprinklers can travel up to 200 feet in the air, so even houses off the golf course or near common areas aren’t spared in this situation.

Please note that many cities also restrict sprinkler irrigation to times when the public is not present, as a further means of protecting individuals from contact with reclaimed water.

According to opinions released in a National Research Council Report in 1998,

The United States of America, and for that matter, the world’s scientific community, does not and will not know all of the toxic agents and carcinogens that may be able to make it through the reclaimed water process. It took decades until the risk of Chromium 6 materialized and there may be other substances out there equally harmful.  At this point, the National Research Council states that we do not even have tests available to determine many of the unknowns that may show up in water from the water reuse program.

In considering the environmental threats of reclaimed water, the Environmental Protection Agency reveals that there are five areas of major concern:


  • Heavy metals
  • Pathogens
  • Nutrients
  • Trace organics
  • Inorganic compounds

Of this list, I would suggest that heavy metals and pathogens are of greatest concern; however trace organics could also have long-term adverse impacts on individuals ( see also : “Augmenting Drinking Water with Reclaimed Water” by Steven B. Oppenheimer, Ph.D).


As a final point, I would suggest the reader also consider the fact that the Sun Lakes community contains elderly people many of whom have compromised immune systems. In making a decision regarding the use of reclaimed water thought must be given to the potential impact this could have on those individuals least able to cope with biological threats.

Are these threats of reclaimed water worthy of consideration?

The final segment of this trilogy will be an examination of the financial implications of the reclaimed water proposal.


Lyndon Taylor is a Sun Lakes resident and former City Council candidate. In 2009 he was a driving force in Banning’s successful “Anti-Sludge” petition drive.

Taylor holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology with a minor in Chemistry ,a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry and a PhD in Planning and Management.

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