Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – April 15th, 2005

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

April 15 , 2005
EPA Withdraws Groundwater Rule From Review Process

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn its drinking water rule regarding groundwater fecal contamination from review by the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB). Citing a number of unresolved issues related to the underlying analysis of the regulation, EPA is seeking additional time to further consider the rule.

The EPA groundwater rule is designed to determine which drinking water systems that draw groundwater are at a high risk for fecal contamination, requiring action to eliminate bacteria or viruses from the water. The rule would apply to about 147,000 drinking water systems serving approximately 114 million people. The EPA first proposed the rule in 2000 but it has repeatedly been delayed to allow further review by the agency. Debate has continued regarding whether the costs of the rule’s implementation exceed the public health benefits it would impact.

Significantly, the delay may postpone release of another pending EPA rule, the Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts (DBP) rule. The Stage 2 DBP rule, expected this year, addresses allowable levels of disinfection byproducts, substances that can form during a reaction of a disinfectant with naturally present organic matter in the water. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act amendments of 1996, the groundwater rule must be issued no later than the final Stage 2 DBP rule.

While it is unclear exactly when the groundwater rule will be released, an agency statement emphasized that it would be published no later than the end of the year.

To read more about the EPA groundwater drinking water efforts, please go to: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/

Partnership Works to Stem Water-Related Health Crisis in Haiti

Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Population Services International (PSI) have joined forces to develop a model for delivering clean drinking water in Haiti using the P&G’s PUR Purifier of Water technology. PUR is a low cost and simple-to-use in-home water purification technology developed in cooperation with the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of diarrheal disease in developing countries. PUR sachets contain a powdered combination of calcium hypochlorite and iron sulfate to disinfect and clarify household drinking water.

A recently inaugurated three-year project, Haiti: Clean Water, Good Business, aims to validate a marketing strategy for P&G’s PUR Purifier of Water that can be scaled-up into broader markets. To date, PUR sachets have provided more than seven million liters of safe drinking water to Haiti, which has long suffered from lack of access to clean water. Use of PUR should reduce the number of Haitians suffering from illnesses such as diarrhea and cholera that are brought on by drinking contaminated water.

Haiti has the worst health indicators of any country in the Western Hemisphere. Only 1 out of every 10 Haitians has access to piped water in their homes. Diarrhea caused largely by unsafe drinking water results in 42% of all infant deaths in the island nation’s rural areas.
Rash of E. coli Outbreaks Reported at Florida Fairs

In the wake of a recent spate of reported E. coli infections, Florida health officials believe they have identified petting zoos at local fairs as the source of 22 confirmed cases. DNA tests show that a particular strain of the E. coli organism as source of all the infections. Those affected, mostly children, recently attended three fairs in the central part of the state, including the Florida State Fair in Tampa.

It has been reported that some of the infected patients have been hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal disease affecting the kidneys. An additional 33 suspected E. coli cases are currently being monitored.

State health officials increasingly believe that the wave of infection is most likely the result of contact with the farm or other types of animals at the fairs. Contact with animals in petting zoos is the only common element of all three fairs. Animals do not have to be ill to transmit E. coli to humans and children and people are advised to wash their hands after contact with animals.

To read more about E. coli, please visit the CDC’s web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/submenus/sub_ecoli.htm

WHO Confirms Rapid Rise in Senegal Cholera Cases

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that a cholera epidemic in Senegal could spread to neighboring nations following a religious pilgrimage. Over 2,000 cases of the disease were recorded in central Senegal before the Touba pilgrimage in late March. Since the event, the number of cases has tripled and the epidemic has spread nationally as infected pilgrims returned to their homes carrying the disease.

More than one million people visited Touba, the town that is at the middle of the epidemic. According to the Health Ministry, 4,838 new cases of cholera and 64 deaths were reported from the disease nationwide between March 28 and April 6. This week, Senegalese Health Ministry officials reported a decrease in the number of new cases.

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness triggered by infection of the intestine by a strain of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but sometimes it can be severe. Approximately one in 20 infected persons has severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

To read more about cholera from the CDC’s web site, please go to: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/cholera_g.htm

In The News-is a bi-weekly, online service from the Water Quality & Health Council. The publication is updated every other Friday and can be viewed by logging onto www.waterandhealth.org. To receive the publication via e-mail, please click here and enter your e-mail address to join our mailing list.

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