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Unregulated and emerging chemical contaminants present numerous technical and institutional challenges to society and to environmental and public health professionals. Over the past four decades, ever increasingly sensitive analytical techniques have chronicled the emergence of specific chemical, microbial and radiological agents in actual or potential sources of drinking water. As our ability to detect these agents has increased, the number of contaminants regulated under various environmental statutes has also increased, and the universe of regulated agents has grown dramatically in the past 25 years. Despite these advances, many contaminants remain unregulated, and the universe of such regulated contaminants will only grow slowly over the next several decades. Thus, environmental engineers and other environmental professionals must make difficult risk management decisions regarding water resource and water supply management issues in the face of considerable regulatory uncertainty. Emerging chemical contaminants such as solvent stabilizers, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), perchlorate and pharmaceutical and personal care products illustrate many of the technical and institutional challenges. While technologies are available to produce any desired water quality, such technologies are expensive, and costs may not balance the estimated reduction in risk. Risk management decisions in the future will require more complex assessments of the vulnerability of a water supply source to unregulated contaminants, and an analysis of the appropriate combination of treatment processes in the context of water quality uncertainties to meet both current and future hazards arising due to these contaminants taking cost into consideration.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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