Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – August 30th, 2002

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

August 30, 2002

Millions at Risk from Waterborne Disease

The Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, a California-based think tank, recently reported that as many as 76 million people worldwide, predominantly children, could die from waterborne diseases by 2020 if certain changes are not made. Peter Gleick, President of the Institute, commented, “Under the most optimistic scenario we examined, the death toll from water-related disease is still staggering, and would exceed the projected deaths from the global AIDS epidemic. This largely hidden tragedy ranks as one of the greatest development failures of the 20th century.” The Institute argues that far too much money has been spent on centralized, large-scale water systems that cannot be built or maintained with local expertise or resources, while traditional and community-scale systems have been inadequately funded and supported. Gleick concluded, “It is time to change direction, toward a ‘soft path’ that relies on smaller-scale systems designed, built, and operated by local groups. Outside assistance in terms of information, funding, and expertise is certainly still required, but this assistance must be provided in new and different ways.” The United Nations estimates that 1.1 billion people across the globe do not have access to safe drinking water while 2.5 billion lack proper sanitation.

To view the study, visit

USDA Announces New Approaches Towards Meat Inspection

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued new procedures for responding to establishments that fail salmonella performance standard testing for raw products. The new procedures constitute a more scientific and systematic approach to food safety and to the enforcement of current regulations. In December 2001, a federal appeals court ruled that the USDA lacked the authority to shut down meat plants when salmonella was detected in products. Under the new procedures issued in mid-August, the USDA indicated that the identification of salmonella at a meat plant would trigger several other tests and reviews that could highlight additional problems at the plant for which the agency has the authority to act. Though consumer groups question whether the plan will lead to plant improvements, the USDA argues that the new procedures will help further safeguard the nation’s food supply. Salmonella bacteria can contaminate meat during processing; infecting 1.4 million Americans annually, the bacteria can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever.

For more information, visit

ASDWA Seeks to Tweak Arsenic Standard

In mid-August, the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) formally requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resolve the confusion surrounding the 10 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic standard. The EPA recommends that state water utilities consider 10 ppb as the standard. The ASDWA notes that the standard promulgated in January 2001 was 0.01 mg/L. Vanessa Leiby, Executive Director of the ASDWA, said, “Because the additional significant digit of 0 was not added following the .01, standard rounding practices allow for results as high as .0149 mg/L to be reported as being in compliance. This means that water systems with arsenic levels between 10 and 15 ppb will meet the new arsenic standard.” The ASDWA believes this confusion surrounding the arsenic MCL has the potential to generate a number of lawsuits at the state and possibly Federal level. The ASDWA urges the repromulgation of the standard, insisting that this would be the only way to ensure compliance to the spirit of the law. EPA administrator Christine Whitman’s response is pending.

To read the letter, visit ( PDF)

Second-Largest City in Maryland Desperate for Water

A depleted water supply in Frederick, MD has officials scrambling to find a remedy to the shortage – and quickly. Tentative plans include trucking in as much as four million gallons of water each day for residents and businesses. Severe drought conditions and drastic population growth have strained the city’s water supply. The Monocacy River – a significant source of Frederick’s water – now approaches the lowest levels since records set in 1966. Groundwater levels and stream flows throughout Maryland face similar conditions. In April, Governor Parris Glendening announced voluntary water restrictions throughout central Maryland. Additionally, Frederick businesses were mandated to reduce water usage by ten percent. Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty assures residents will be provided with water, even if it does not come in the form of much-needed rain.

For additional information, visit

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 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"