Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – April 11th, 2003

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

April 11, 2003

SARS Cases Still on the Rise

On April 9th, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the number of cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, continues to increase. A total of 2,722 cases in 17 countries have been reported; 106 people have died from the disease. In the United States, there are 149 suspected cases in 30 states, most of which have been among people who recently traveled to Asia. While speaking at the first congressional hearing on the disease on April 7th, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding called the disease an epidemic. Meanwhile, the outbreak of 268 cases in a Hong Kong apartment complex seems to be coming to an end, according to the WHO.

To follow this developing story, visit:

Water Utilities Submit Vulnerability Assessments

The nation’s largest water utilities estimate that they will need $1.6 billion for security upgrades to protect the country’s water supplies from terrorist attacks, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA). This figure was determined from security vulnerability assessments (VAs) submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the utilities on March 31st. The additional security needed by the utilities includes security fencing and lighting, close-circuit cameras, alarms, bio/chemical water contamination monitoring devices and employee security. Following the submissions of the VAs, waterworks have six months to implement emergency response plans that correct the weaknesses identified. Water utility officials expect the federal government to pay some of the cost, but customers may see higher water bills as well, according to the AWWA.

More information is available at:

Final Arsenic Standard Clarified

The EPA has revised and clarified its January 2001 standard for the acceptable level of arsenic in drinking water. Until now, the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for arsenic has been stated as 0.01 mg/L, but as of April 24, 2003, the MCL will be 0.010mg/L. The change was prompted by concerns of state officials that the prior, less accurate figure allows for statistical rounding up to 0.014 mg/L. The new language clearly states that any monitoring result greater than 0.010 mg/L is a violation of the January 2001 standard.

More information is available at:

Drinking Water State Revolving Funds Allocated

The EPA recently allotted Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) grants according to the needs identified in the most recent Drinking Water Needs Survey published in February 2001. These funds are used by the states to finance infrastructure improvements that will improve the quality of drinking water and better protect public health. The funds also go to small and disadvantaged communities and to programs that encourage pollution prevention as a tool for ensuring safe drinking water. The FY 2003 allotment is $844,475,000, a .65 percent reduction from the FY 2002 appropriation of $850 million. The states with the highest percentage of funding were California with 10.24 percent, New York at 7.75 percent, Texas with 7.70 percent, Michigan with 4.10 percent, Illinois with 3.73 percent and Massachusetts with 3.58 percent.

A complete list of allocated funds is at:

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