Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – December 3rd, 2004

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

December 3, 2004

EPA Issues New Lead and Copper Guidance

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a guidance memorandum based on its ongoing national review of the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule (LCR). It reiterates and clarifies several requirements regarding the collection of at-the-tap water samples and how to use them to determine LCR compliance. The official memorandum from the EPA’s Office of Water addresses issues the agency has determined to be confusing and inconsistently applied by states and water utilities.

The guidance memo includes a chart detailing sampling-site tier classification requirements for community and “non-transient/non-community” systems. The new LCR guidelines provide that states must calculate compliance even if the minimum number of samples are not collected. Utilities that fall short of the guideline requirements will incur a monitoring and reporting violation, may be subject to fine, and are required to notify the public of current water issues in their community.

Critics suggest that confusing and inconsistent regulations governing at-the-tap water sample tests have been a contributing factor in non-compliance with the 1991 rule over the past decade. The new LCR guidelines were developed to help state officials accurately calculate compliance with established baseline regulations, aiding the overall effort to improve public drinking water quality.

Rare Blood Infection Surfaces in Injured U.S. Soldiers

A high number of U.S. soldiers injured during military action in the Middle East and Afghanistan are reportedly testing positive for a rare, hard-to-treat blood infection. A total of 102 soldiers were found infected with the bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii. Although it was not known where the soldiers contracted the bacterial infections, the U.S. Army said the recent surge highlights the need to improve infection-control in military hospitals.

A. baumannii, which is found in water and soil and resistant to many types of antibiotics, surfaces occasionally in hospitals, often spread among patients in intensive care units. Spread of the infection is often halted when health-care workers wash their hands and those of their patients with alcohol swabs, actively monitor those with wounds to the extremities and promptly identify the infected. Health care providers in the U.S. are urged to watch for A. baumannii infections among soldiers who have been recently treated at military hospitals, especially those treated in intensive care units.

Eighty-five of the infections occurred among soldiers serving in Iraq and the areas surrounding Kuwait and Afghanistan. Typically, military hospitals see about one case per year.
Airlines Agree to New EPA Drinking Water Tests

In response to the recent discovery of the coliform bacteria in the drinking water of one in every eight commercial airplanes tested, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has initiated a new water quality inspection procedure for aircraft. The EPA announced commitments from 12 major U.S. passenger airlines to implement new aircraft water testing and disinfection protocols.

In August and September of this year the EPA tested drinking water aboard 158 randomly selected domestic and international aircrafts and found 12.6 percent did not meet federal standards. EPA initiated additional water quality testing on 169 randomly selected domestic and international passenger aircraft at 14 airports throughout the United States. Those results will be available to the public by early January.

The current interim agreements call for airlines to provide comprehensive monitoring data from every aircraft in each airline’s fleet. While baseline data is being collected, the airlines are obligated to perform quarterly disinfection and flushing of aircraft potable water systems. EPA says that the newly adopted protocols will further protect the traveling public while existing guidelines for the handling, storage and use of potable water aboard passenger aircraft continues are reviewed and new regulations are developed.

For more information on the regulation of water supplies aboard passenger aircraft and to view the publicly available data, please go to:

New Report Tackles U.S. Water Needs

The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine has recently released, “From Source Water to Drinking Water – Emerging Challenges for Public Health”, a report based on findings from a workshop examining issues critical to protecting the U.S. water supply sponsored by the Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine. The meetings were developed to discuss whether traditional water management approaches used by the U.S. government will continue to be effective as the nation faces a growing population and increased per capita water consumption.

The Roundtable’s workshop examined issues critical to protecting the U.S. water supply – from source water supplies to drinking water reserves. The speakers and participants considered the broadly defined environment -including the natural, built, and social environments – and worked to identify those areas that will impact the nation’s future capability to ensure safe water for our the U.S.

The workshop observed that the U.S. water supply, often possessing societal and personal implications, is a complex and diverse system that will not be fixed by quick regulatory decisions.

To review excerpts or purchase the full report, please go to:

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