Author Archives: waterhealthadmin

A Thanksgiving Food Safety Quiz

Wondering how long your leftover holiday food will last once refrigerated or frozen? Consult this handy chart.

Wondering how long your leftover holiday food will last once refrigerated or frozen? Consult this handy chart.

Preparing a Thanksgiving feast is really an exercise in project management. Whether you are “sub-contracting” the sides or coordinating everything from “soup to nuts” yourself, an awareness of food safety is essential to reach the goal of a delicious, safely prepared meal. Take the quiz below to test your knowledge of food safety for the big day ahead.

True or False:

1. The top shelf of the refrigerator is the worst place to store a raw turkey until it is time to be cooked.

True. Store Tom Turkey “as low as he can go” in the fridge; that is, on the lowest shelf possible. The goal is to prevent raw turkey juices from dripping down and contaminating foods stored on lower shelves. Keep Tom well-wrapped in plastic and on a READ MORE >>

Water Loss: Challenges, Costs and Opportunities

Leaking water main I wrote at the end of 2016 about the Future of America’s Drinking Water, and summarized some basic facts about US daily and annual water consumption. For example, Americans consume more than one billion glasses of tap water each day, while just 3% of our nation’s 50,000 community water systems provide safe drinking water for almost 80% of the US population.1 This remarkable public health and engineering achievement relies on a vast—and aging—infrastructure, including an estimated 1.2 million miles of distribution pipes that leak and sometimes break spectacularly.2 Considering all sources and types of losses, an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated drinking water are lost every day. In this article, I’d like to focus on the challenges and costs, as well as some opportunities and solutions, associated with water loss in the United States.


The Coming Flu Season

Is it the flu or a cold? This chart can help you decide.

Is it the flu or a cold? This chart can help you decide.

Are you ready for the coming flu season? “Down under” in Australia where it is springtime, the number of flu cases has doubled over last season’s total. Could that be an indication of what we might expect soon in the northern hemisphere? According to self-proclaimed flu-ologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “…the only thing that you can predict about influenza is that it’s going to be unpredictable.”1 When it comes to flu, a reasonably precautionary approach might just be the best approach.

First: Get Vaccinated

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.” Scientists have known for some time that getting the vaccine can … READ MORE >>

How to Keep Your Halloween Jack-o-Lantern Looking Fresh and Teach Your Kids a Little Science in the Process

jackolanternCarving Jack-o-lanterns is a fun Halloween tradition. Whether you transform your pumpkin into an exquisite work of art or a sweet smiley face with triangle eyes, preserving your Jack-o-lantern from mold and mildew can be tricky. But here’s a Halloween treat of a hint: Jack-o-lanterns can be preserved for a short time with the help of a dilute solution of chlorine bleach.

Dunking Jack

The directions below are based on a recommended procedure found on the Clorox website for extending the “porch life” of your Jack-o-lantern.  

  • After cutting the top of your pumpkin off, use a spoon to remove seeds and stringy fibers from the inside of the pumpkin and the underside of its top. (If you have one, a grapefruit spoon – with a serrated edge – is a great tool to help dislodge fibers.) Consider collecting the pumpkin seeds for roasting and snacking.
  • Rinse the inside and

After the Hurricane: How to Handle a Flooded Swimming Pool or Spa

flooded-poolThe 2017 hurricane season is one for the record books. Among the issues residents in affected areas are contending with is flooded backyard swimming pools and spas. A new Fact Sheet from The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals provides expert and detailed guidance on safely returning your flooded pool or spa to working condition. This article lists key highlights from the Fact Sheet, but we advise you to consult the original document for the most detailed guidance.

Electrical Safety

Safety is the first and most important consideration in addressing your flooded pool or spa. Electrocution is “a real and present danger and frequently accounts for many deaths after a major storm,” according to the Fact Sheet. Before attempting any clean-up activities, turn off the power to all pool and spa equipment at the main circuit breaker or fuse box. Remember: Never touch a circuit breaker or fuse with wet … READ MORE >>

Controlling the Spread of Invasive Aquatic Species with the Ballast Water Management Convention

Ballast water is the marine or fresh water taken into the ballast tank of a ship to improve the vessel’s stability, buoyancy and maneuverability. Unfortunately, the process of adding and subtracting ballast water, so vital to a ship’s operation, can have unintended consequences for aquatic ecosystems.


Ballast water may include aquatic life forms native to the ecosystem of the water “take in” point, but foreign to the ecosystem of the water “release” point. This watery exchange can promote the spread of invasive aquatic species, a global environmental issue that is the subject of the Ballast Water Management Convention. The Convention requires participating nations to have a ballast water management plan to help avoid disrupting native ecosystems with invasive aquatic species.


Autumn: When Leaves Fall, So Can Water Quality

autumnNow that summer is over—and hopefully the record-setting 2017 hurricane season—many of us can turn our attention to the cooler temperatures, shorter days and the colorful splendor of autumn leaves. Of course, all of those red, orange, and yellow leaves are short-lived and fall to the ground, forming truly massive amounts of organic debris. But did you know that this yearly spectacle, and all that leaf litter, can have a negative effect on water quality?

Leaf Litter, Nutrients and Stormwater Research

Prior to the 1970s, most “urban leaves” were burned in yards and provided the unmistakeable smell of autumn … to the marked disadvantage of air quality. Beginning in the early 1970s, many cities banned the open burning of leaves and some eventually began collecting leaves at curbside. In 1972, the National Science Foundation funded a group of 12 students (myself included) to consider alternatives to burning leaves in … READ MORE >>

If Nothing Changes, It Will Happen Again: New Zealand’s Untreated Drinking Water

New Zealand Drinking WaterJust over a year ago, in August 2016, I wrote about how more than 5,000 of the 14,000 residents of Havelock North—a suburb of the City of Hastings on the North Island of New Zealand—became sickened after drinking untreated groundwater contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria, a common food- and waterborne disease-causing microorganism that is transmitted in the feces of infected persons and animals. It was New Zealand’s largest and most costly drinking water outbreak. Last February, I provided an update on a government inquiry into the avoidable outbreak, which may have contributed to the loss of three lives. Now I will comment on the current national discussion in New Zealand about whether or not to require treatment of drinking water, which believe it or not, is still going on.

Government Inquiry and What the Experts Have to Say

The first stage of the inquiry, which included extensive public … READ MORE >>

Getting Hepatitis A Off the Streets of San Diego

Hepatitis AA Hepatitis A outbreak centered on homeless and illicit drug-using populations in the County of San Diego, California, has prompted a public health emergency. Headline-grabbing responses by local officials describe washing the streets and sidewalks with chlorine bleach solution, aggressively vaccinating the vulnerable populations, and distributing personal hygiene kits. What caused this local outbreak and can these measures help mitigate it?

The Facts about Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious viral disease that affects the human liver, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is usually spread through the fecal-to-oral route, either by person-to-person contact or by consuming contaminated food or water.

Before the era of drinking water chlorination, over a century ago, Hepatitis A, along with typhoid fever and cholera, was one of the great waterborne scourges of American life. Today chlorine-based disinfectants are routinely used during water treatment to destroy the … READ MORE >>

In the Wake of Hurricanes: The Problem with Standing Water

A discarded tire containing standing water can become a choice breeding ground for mosquitoes.

A discarded tire containing standing water can become a choice breeding ground for mosquitoes.

As flood waters recede in Houston and Florida, a new public health threat rears its ugly head: Mosquitoes breeding in standing water left in the wake of hurricanes. Puddles, flower pots and saucers, rain barrels, bird baths, pet bowls, discarded tires, overturned trash can lids, canvas and plastic tarps covering boats and pools, and even swimming pools themselves can become watery incubators for mosquitoes.

Although most mosquitoes do not spread disease, some do spread Zika virus, West Nile virus, chikungunya, malaria, encephalitis and dengue fever. Fortunately, after a quiet summer for Zika virus on the US mainland during which there was no known local transmission of the virus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not expect to see cases of Zika virus appearing in the wake of flooding from the recent hurricanes, READ MORE >>

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