Want to know what prescription and generic drugs are in your local wastewater? Now Virginia residents can check using a new website created by UVA engineering professors Lisa Colosi and James Smith, with graduate student Karl Ottmar (Engr ‘98, ‘10). Wastewater is treated before it’s released into the environment, and Colosi points out that even before the treatment process, there are only small quantities of medications in the water. “While most scientists agree that the presence of pharmaceuticals in the water supply is undesirable,” she says, “the concentrations of these drugs are very low and it is currently unknown what direct effects they may have on human health.”

Results from a water treatment plant in Charlottesville show that the top three pharmaceuticals in the wastewater are a diabetes medication and two kinds of antibiotics. The website also gives advice on how to dispose of pharmaceuticals more responsibly: Combine them with used coffee grounds or kitty litter and put them in the trash.