Skip to main content



Elimination of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Water

WHEREAS pharmaceuticals (especially antibiotics) are used to treat humans and animals from

WHEREAS antibiotic resistance is accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, as well
as by poor infection prevention and control;

WHEREAS a significant amount of these pharmaceuticals are released into water sources
through regular discharge of human waste and through discharges from hospitals, pharmaceutical
companies and farming operations;

WHEREAS the accumulation of these pharmaceutical compounds continues to discharge from
sewage treatment plants which have not been designed to, and which are not capable of,
removing these compounds; and

WHEREAS antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world
threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases and increasing the number of
emerging resistance mechanisms according to WHO, 2014 (WORLD HEALTH

BE IT RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada urge Health Canada to do the following:

  • develop and implement methods of surveillance of antibiotic-resistant infections in
  • investigate the impact on human health of the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in
    drinking water;
  • investigate the ability of advanced technologies to eliminate antibiotic resistant bacteria
    in all sources of water including most specifically from water being discharged from
    hospitals, public facilities, farms and pharmaceutical operations; and
  • working with provincial and territorial governments and indigenous communities,
    develop a robust national action plan to eliminate antibiotic resistant bacteria from
    drinking water in Canada.



Contact: Dr. Saad Y. Jasim, P.Eng.


Eliminate Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Water Sources and Drinking Water

Dr. Saad Y. Jasim, P.Eng.

It has been known for number of years that pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are released into the environment, however only in the last two decades have analytical methods become sufficiently sensitive to identify and quantify their presence in surface waters, drinking water, wastewater treatment plant effluents, and ground water. Adverse impacts of this diverse group of chemicals have been documented for wildlife including increased feminization of fish, sexual disorders in snails and juvenile alligators, and kidney failure in vultures leading to death (Jasim et al. 2006). The presence of PPCPs in the environment has emerged as a societal issue, but the science with respect to exposure and impacts is still rudimentary. Although existing research and new analytical capabilities have detected certain PPCPs in drinking water sources, they have generally been found in orders of magnitude below any daily therapeutic dose. Concerns have, however, arisen over potential health effects related to the consumption of drinking water including antibiotic resistance and unknown potential long term chronic effects caused by the intake of mixtures of PPCPs in low concentrations to individuals during sensitive life stages. The presence of these compounds in drinking water brought concern to drinking water systems authorities and regulatory agencies. It is not known what threshold levels are toxic, especially in complexmixtures.
The overuse, and inappropriate use of many antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents in both human and veterinary medicine are well documented, as is the extensive and largely unregulated use of these chemicals in animal agriculture and aquaculture, including for growth promotion. Uncontrolled release and disposal of these agents to the environment via sanitary sewers and landfills and in effluent discharges from pharmaceutical production facilities are considered a well-known fact. These imprudent uses and abuses of antibiotics and antimicrobial agents contribute to the extensive presence of their residues, their metabolites, multiple Antimicrobial Resistant (AMR) bacteria and their functional genes in human and animal wastes, in landfills and their leachates, in water, soil and sediments and in water- dependent food crops, such as seafood and produce. They persist for extended periods of time in many environmental compartments, even when antimicrobial use has ceased (WHO,2014).

Pharmaceuticals are designed with a specific mode of action, it is expected that they will have effects on non-target receptors and can possibly cause adverse effects in a target organism (Weyer and Riley, 2001). Antibiotic resistance is receiving the most attention of all the PPCPs, especially since a large portion of antibiotics leave the body and end up in receiving waters (WHO 2014, Weyer and Riley, 2001).
Human excreta in wastewater is recognized as major sources of antimicrobial agents, their metabolites, antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and their AMR genes because of the widespread and extensive use of antimicrobial agents by human populations. In many countries, facilities to treat municipal, community and household wastes that may harbour antimicrobial agents, antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and AMR genes are absent or inadequate, including ageing infrastructure such as leaking sewers that are often co-
located with municipal water distribution pipes. Although wastewater treatment plants are designed to remove solids, nutrients, and biodegradable organic matter through their normal operation, these plants would not remove some of these compounds. As a result, these contaminants are released directly into the environment where human exposures are likely and where antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and AMR genes are capable of persisting and spreading. Furthermore, human wastewater and excreta are used extensively in agriculture as sources of water and plant nutrients, and such use is encouraged by management practices such as ecological sanitation, municipal wastewater (re)use and water reclamation.
A study evaluated the removal of pharmaceuticals, personal care products and endocrine disrupting compounds using ozone and ozone based advanced oxidation processes compared to conventional water treatment (Rahman et al. 2010). The results show that ozone & ozone based advanced oxidation processes have a great potential to remove these contaminants compared to conventional water treatment processes. ). Ozone is used for municipal and industrial wastewaters to improve water quality, including disinfection, improvement of treatment processes, and control of taste & odour and colour (Jasim et al., 2006).
A study was conducted at a municipal wastewater treatment plant in South Western Ontario showed clearly that antibiotics in wastewater treatment plant effluent can be oxidized and removed using advance technologies such as ozone, preventing the exposure of the ecosystem to these compounds (Uslu et al., 2015).

The draft report for purpose of public consultation prepared by the International Joint Commission “FIRST TRIENNIAL ASSESSMENT OF PROGRESS ON GREAT LAKES WATER QUALITY”, Pursuant to Article 7 (1) (k) of the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) indicated that;

– The Parties have not demonstrated sufficient progress toward the achievement of the human health objectives in their implementation of the GLWQA. Greater binational focus on the
achievement of drinkability, swimability and fishiability is needed
– There has been little progress in the identification of chemicals of concern and no publicly available
progress in the development and implementation of binational strategies to address them. (IJC,


– Jasim, S.Y., Irabelli, A., Yang, P., Ahmed, S., Schweitzer, L., Presence of Pharmaceuticals and
Pesticides in Detroit River Water and the Effect of Ozone on Removal-A Review. Ozone Science &
Engineering, Vol. 28, Number 4, pp 415-423, Taylor & Francis,2006
– Rahman, M.F., Yanful, E.K., Jasim, S.Y., Bragg, l., Borikar, D. and Servos, M.R. “Advanced Oxidation
Treatment of Drinking Water: part- I. Occurrence and Removal of Pharmaceuticals and Endocrine
Disrupting Compounds from Lake Huron Water”, Ozone science and Engineering, Volume 32, pp:
217–229, Taylor & Francis,2010
– Uslu, M., Rajesh Seth, Saad Jasim, Shahram Tabe & Nihar Biswas, “Reaction Kinetics of Ozone
with Selected Pharmaceuticals and their Removal Potential from a Secondary Treated Municipal
Wastewater Effluent in the Great Lakes Basin” . Ozone Science & Engineering, 37: 36–44, 2015.
Weyer, P. and D. Riley. ‘‘Endocrine Disruptors and Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water’’, American
Water Works Association Research Foundation, Denver, Colorado(2001).
– World Health Organization, Antimicrobial Resistance Global Report on Surveillance, 2014
– International Joint Commission (IJC), 2017, “FIRST TRIENNIAL ASSESSMENT OF PROGRESS ON

Our Achievements