Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – April 16th, 2004

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs
April 16, 2004

New Guide Educates Health Professionals About Foodborne Illness

A partnership of medical associations, healthcare practitioners and the U.S. government has banded together to create a new educational guide for health care professionals to better identify and treat foodborne illnesses.

Released last week at a Washington, D.C. news conference, Diagnosis and Management of Foodborne Illnesses: A Primer for Physicians and Other Health Care Professionals contains charts, scenarios and a continuing medical education section to better prepare members of the medical community for foodborne illness diagnostic and treatment situations. The guide, initially introduced in 2001, contains five additional sections on new and re-emerging food borne illness and is free to health care professionals.

The American Medical Association reports that foodborne illnesses affect roughly 76 million Americans each year and cause approximately 5,000 deaths annually.

More than 75 percent of foodborne illness deaths are caused by just three pathogens: salmonella, listeria and toxoplasma. Information on both salmonella and toxoplasma has been added to the new primer, and the listeria section has been updated. Sections on hepatitis-A and norovirus are also new.

To review the contents of Diagnosis and Management of Foodborne Illnesses: A Primer for Physicians and Other Health Care Professionals go to
Rural Water System Legislation Introduced

Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources, recently introduced legislation that would position the federal government for a larger role in funding water systems construction projects for small rural communities. The Reclamation Rural Water Supply Act of 2003 would authorize $70 million annually for a new Bureau of Reclamation competitive, cost-share program to help rural communities, tribes and water associations plan, design and construct rural water supply systems.

Nationally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that more than 10 percent of rural communities in the 17 western and midwestern Reclamation States (see link for a map have contaminated water supplies. It is estimated that it will cost $50 billion to bring these communities water and waste disposal systems up to safe drinking water standards.

The creation of a new specific rural water systems program through the proposed legislation would allow rural communities to receive traditionally difficult to obtain federal funds to address water quality issues.

The following is a link to Senator Domenici’s press release of on the proposed rural water legislation:

A posting of the Reclamation Rural Water Supply Act of 2003 can be found at

Legislation to be Offered Seeking Reform of Drinking Water Act

In response to the recent revelations that thousands of Washington, D.C. homes have abnormally high levels of lead in their water, Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT) announced last week his intention to file legislation to address the issue and overhaul the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Jeffords announced his proposal during a subcommittee oversight hearing as senators questioned leaders of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding their handling of the lead issue that has dominated headlines for several weeks.

The proposed legislation would establish an increase in the frequency of water testing in houses, schools and day care centers and force manufacturers of plumbing fixtures to eliminate lead from their products. In addition, all lead service lines on public and private property would be replaced.

In recent weeks, the EPA has conducted an audit to determine if WASA was in compliance with the federal Lead and Copper Rule. While the evaluation is not yet complete, the EPA has already determined that WASA failed to comply with certain provisions of the rule. Established in 1991, the Lead and Copper Rule requires that amounts of these metals in drinking water not exceed specified trace levels.

A link to the complete article can be found at:

Pollution Threatens Rural Wells

A recently updated study by Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency established that widespread bacterial contamination of private and small community drinking wells may exist throughout the Midwest. The study conducted by Ohio EPA geologist Rich Bendula and biologist Bob Moore found that agricultural runoff contaminated surface water and leakage from septic tanks often can seep through limestone bedrock and penetrate wells.

Signs of bacterial contamination turned up in about one-third of the wells examined. The researchers found that many wells tested positive for elevated levels of total coliforms only four to six hours after wet weather events, even when the wells were properly constructed and deeply-drilled. Wells that produce turbid water after heavy rainfall are under the direct influence of surface water, and are more likely to be contaminated with high concentrations of bacteria.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has been testing drinking wells in Clark County since receiving an alarming number of reports of murky water, starting in the late 1990s. The study notes a similarity between geology in Ohio and geology in areas that had been the site of illness outbreaks due to pathogens in drinking water, such as Walkerton, Ontario Canada.

A link to more about the study can be found at:

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