Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – August 9th, 2005

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

August 19, 2005
EPA Announces New Wastewater Bacteria Detection Tests

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new test methods for detecting four specific types of bacteria in wastewater and a revised method for assessing contamination in sewage sludge. The EPA tests will identify enterococci and E. coli in wastewater and Salmonella and fecal coliform bacteria in sewage sludge. To date, no EPA-approved tests have been available to detect these bacteria in wastewater.

According to the EPA, the new assessment processes will produce results within 24 hours and provide treatment facilities with an indication of the effectiveness of their treatment techniques. Evidence of these bacteria is often viewed as “health indicators” that point to possible contamination and the need for further investigation and treatment.

The proposed new test methods are in response to comments received on two previous EPA rulemakings that seek approved bacterial methods for wastewater. Revised test methods include new quality control criteria that can be used by laboratories to demonstrate that the data generated are acceptable measures of performance.

EPA is requesting comment on the technical merit, applicability and implementation of these proposed methods.

To read about additional test methods from the EPA, please go to:
http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/methods
Study Finds Household Plumbing Fixtures Contribute to Lead in Drinking Water

A recent study, published in the Journal of the American Water Works Association (August 2005, Volume 97, Number 8) found that household fixtures, valves and other plumbing components may contribute to the increased lead levels in household tap water.

Researchers at Virginia Tech and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Risk Management Research Laboratory jointly conducted the study to review the American National Standards Institute/National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) 61, Section 8 Standard. Section 8 is a protocol consisting of specific methods and test water formulas that government and industry have used to ensure safe plumbing since 1988.

Researchers tested identical brass devices purchased from a local hardware store by subjecting the pieces to the Section 8 protocol. They also tested a simulated plumbing device made of solid lead. The test results revealed that the Section 8 water samples were less “aggressive” with lead in the plumbing rendering the standard deficient. Additional findings showed that small devices made of pure lead could easily pass the lead leaching protocol, leading researchers to conclude that the purchase of NSF Section 8 certified devices does not prevent lead leaching in water supplies.

The researchers issued several recommendations for revising and toughening the standard, including specifying the freshness of testing solutions, changing the normalization formula, and tying the results of a performance test to field experience. Additionally, they also advocate for a dramatic reduction in the allowable lead content of brass products unless the testing protocol can be brought more in line with known drinking water treatment chemistry.
EPA to Study Drinking Water Contaminants Under New Rule

Drinking water suppliers across the U.S. will monitor 26 unregulated contaminants proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the second cycle of the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). The data will assist EPA with several factors of analysis including a determination of whether to regulate the contaminants, what their occurrence in drinking water is, the potential size of the population that may be exposed to these contaminants and the measured level of exposure possible. Currently, the EPA has regulations for more than 90 contaminants.

Published in 1999, the first cycle of the UCMR covered 25 chemicals and one microorganism. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act the agency is required to identify up to 30 contaminants for monitoring every five years.

Monitoring of the contaminants for the study will include all public water systems serving more than 10,000 people and a sample of 800 systems serving 10,000 people or fewer between July 2007 and June 2010. An additional 322 systems serving more than 100,000 people and 800 serving 100,000 or fewer will conduct the screening surveys during a 12-month period from July 2007 to June 2009.

According to the EPA, selection of the contaminants for the five-year assessment was based on several factors including a current roster spot on the EPA’s Contaminant Candidate List and current research showing a health-risk factor associated with a particular contaminant.

To read more about EPA’s “Safewater” efforts, please go to:
http://www.epa.gov/safewater/ucmr/ucmr2
August Update: U.S. Cases of West Nile Continue to Increase

According to the August 12th issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a total of 22 states have reported cases of the West Nile Virus (WNV) with 187 incidents of human illness and three fatalities to date in 2005. The CDC surveillance data shows that California leads the list with 84 WNV cases reported and two deaths attributable to the infection. Fifty-seven percent of the WNV cases where data was available occurred in men. The median age of patients treated for WNV infection was 47 years old.

WNV is a potentially serious illness that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected with WNV when they feed on the blood of infected birds then spread the virus to humans and other species when they bite. Additional statistics from the CDC report reveal the following:

* A total of 2,493 WNV-positive mosquito pools have been reported in 27 states
* WNV has infected 1,162 corvids and 248 other birds in 32 states.
* WNV infections have been reported in horses in 21 states
* WNV seroconversions (the development of detectable antibodies in the blood directed against an infectious agent) have been reported in 126 sentinel chicken flocks in nine states The reported illnesses occurred from May 14 to August 4, a time of year now generally associated with the spread of the virus.

To read the complete statistics from CDC, please go to: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5431a3.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.

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