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Contaminants of Emerging Concern: The Gap between Science and Policy

Name Job Title
Dr. Homa Kheyrollah Pour Assistant Professor, Department of Geography & Environmental Studies, Cold Regions Research Centre, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC 2020) Program Co-chair
Dr. Kim Gilbride Professor of Chemistry and Biology at Toronto Metropolitan University, and Executive Member of Urban Water TMU
Dr. Rania Hamza Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Toronto Metropolitan University, and Member of Urban Water TMU
Dr. Patricia Hania Assistant Professor in the Department of Law and Business at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Toronto Metropolitan University, and Member of Urban Water TMU

The Canadian Science Policy Conference was held from November 16-20, 2020. Urban Water TMU hosted a prerecorded interview with: Dr. Kimberley Gilbride, Dr. Rania Hamza, and Dr. Patricia Hania about the gap between science and policy of contaminents of emerging concern.

Image Provided by Jac Jacobson Photographics Inc

Image Provided by Jac Jacobson Photographics Inc

Dr. Gilbride spoke about her research on contaminents of emerging concern (CECs). CECs are chemicals of concern which aren't monitored or measured in wastewater. CECs are used more frequently than one might think, everything from industries to medical applications dispose of CECs in wastewater. This is why wastewater is considered to be a large contributor to environmental CECs. Her research is focusing on a few groups of CECs, including pharmaceuticals with specific emphasis on antibiotics, fire retardants, and microplastics. This work is in collaboration with Dr. Hamza and Dr. Hania to create a highly experienced team that can suggest legislation changes to ensure the wellbeing of human and ecological health. 

Dr. Hamza who spoke about the contaminants present in WWT plant technologies and what problems they'd pose for WWTS engineers. She identified the pathway of CECs once they enter wastewater treatment. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products can enter surface waters and reach our drinking water if present in excessive quantities. This is why research focused on CECs is crucial because they Dr. Gilbride has identified about 600 CECs which have no classification and the long-term effects of this are unkonwn. 

Dr. Hania spoke about how you can regulate something unknown to the WWT plant operator from a law and policy perspective, leveraging her knowledge in that field. Her expertise in the legal industry allowed her to speak in regards to creating a regulatory regime that can protect human health and water sources when the science is emerging on CECs to fill knowledge gaps that exist for engineers and operators. She explained that the root of the regulatory gap stems from the fragmented jurisdictional framework of the Canadian Constitution due to the involvement of all three levels of government. She is examining the regulations that control the 600 CECs and identifying how to introduce a legal system that is responsive to the Earth's carrying capacity. 

Image Provided by Jac Jacobson Photographics Inc