Category Archives: Featured

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.

READ MORE >>

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 >>

Stockholm Junior Water Prize Winners Propose Novel Approach to Expanding Safe Water Resources

New York high school students Ryan Thorpe and Rachel Chang, receive the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize from H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden in Stockholm Photo credit: The Stockholm International Water Institute

New York high school students Ryan Thorpe and Rachel Chang, receive the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize from H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden in Stockholm

Photo credit: The Stockholm International Water Institute

 

Striving for a better world by 2030, countries around the globe are beginning to incorporate the new, ambitious UN Sustainable Development Goals into their national agendas. Among the 17 bold goals, which include ending poverty and hunger, is the goal of universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation. This goal was front and center at last week’s Stockholm International Water Institute’s (SIWI) World Water Week meeting, the world’s biggest annual global meeting focused on water and development. SIWI Executive Director, Torgny Holmgren noted, “… it is here that we come together and make sure that the very best ideas are brought forward”.

One of those ideas originated with two Long Island, New York, high … READ MORE >>

Cleaning up After Hurricane Harvey: Chlorine Bleach Is Your Friend

Houston residents walk across a flooded street on August 27, 2017. Hurricane Harvey dumped trillions of gallons of water in several Gulf states, leading to devastating flooding.

Houston residents walk across a flooded street on August 27, 2017. Hurricane Harvey dumped trillions of gallons of water in several Gulf states, leading to devastating flooding.

After the shock and heartbreak of experiencing a flood comes the clean up to prevent further damage and spread of disease. Flood cleanup starts with removing flood water (usually contaminated with sewage) and drying the affected areas. Evaluate all items touched by flood waters, deciding which to keep and which to toss. Whenever possible, use a disinfecting solution of chlorine bleach to disinfect items touched by flood waters.

  • When using a disinfecting solution to clean up after a flood, remember to:
    • Wear gloves and protective clothing. Do not touch your face or eyes.
    • Change the disinfecting solution often and whenever it is cloudy.
    • Be thorough. Wash and dry everything well.
    • When finished, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least
READ MORE >>

Touring Orange County’s Groundwater Replenishment System and Celebrating World Water Week 2017

gwrsThe theme of this year’s World Water Week, which runs from August 27 to September 1, is “Water and Waste: Reduce and Reuse.” World Water Week was established in 1991 and is organized each year by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

To mark World Water Week, we thought it only fitting to share a highlight of our July 2017 summer meeting—a tour of the unique Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) of the Orange County Water District and the Orange County Sanitation District (OCWD/OCSD) in California.

World Water Week 2017

SIWI promotes sustainable development in water governance and transboundary water management. In 2016, SIWI named WQ&HC’s Dr. Joan Rose winner of their prestigious Stockholm Water Prize. As described in their program, World Water Week 2017 will focus on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). OCWD and OCSD … READ MORE >>

Kitchen Sponges: Cleaning Tool or Germ Dispenser?

The notorious kitchen sponge—that germ-ridden object found in many households—is at the center of a new controversy about controlling the spread of infections in the home. Several years ago we reported a University of Florida research team found microwaving spongevery wet sponges for two minutes at high power killed or inactivated over 99 percent of all the living pathogens in sponges and cleaning pads that had been soaked in a “witch’s brew of germs.” Easy and convenient, right? Think again: A team of German researchers using genetic techniques to characterize sponge microbes says that neither boiling nor microwaving sponges may be particularly effective in the long run. Careful testing of alternative sponge treatments is needed, but in the meantime, the researchers recommend the best course may be ditching your kitchen sponge once per week for a new one.

Sponge Microbe Dynamics

First, the German team found the density of bacteria … READ MORE >>

Subscribe to receive the weekly "Water Quality & Health Council Perspectives"