Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – December 6th, 2002

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

December 6, 2002

CDC Report Finds Waterborne Disease Outbreaks on the Rise

A recent report conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a significant increase in cases of drinking water and recreational waterborne disease outbreaks in 1999 and 2000 compared to the number of reported outbreaks in 1997 and 1998. The CDC reported that drinking water outbreaks increased from 17 incidents in 1997 and 1998 to 39 in 1999 and 2000. The CDC noted that the observed increase largely reflects problems associated with small private wells that are independently owned and operated. CDC officials urged owners of water wells to ensure that their well is properly constructed, maintained and tested. At the same time, the CDC noted that outbreaks in regulated drinking water systems did not increase, indicating that efforts by the drinking water industry, public health officials and regulatory agencies have been successful in preventing illness. Among waterborne diseases resulting from recreational facilities, the CDC reports that there were 59 outbreaks occurring between 1999 and 2000, affecting over two thousand people. Cryptosporidium parvum – found in swimming pools – accounted for approximately 70 percent of the outbreaks. In freshwater environments, E.coli accounts for almost 30 percent of the outbreaks.

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EPA Finds Disinfectant Ineffective, Orders Halt to Sales and Distribution

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deemed a disinfectant used by hospitals to kill tuberculosis bacteria ineffective. Two companies, Biospan Technologies Inc. of Washington, MO and Infection Control Technologies of Woods Cross, UT, manufacture Bi-Arrest 2, a phenolic-based disinfectant. According to the EPA announcement, the companies were ordered to recall the product and stop all further sales and distribution. The disinfectant was commonly used in operating rooms and emergency rooms, as well as other hospital areas. The EPA noted that the product label suggested that Bi-Arrest 2 was effective against the microorganisms Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. EPA testing proved these claims to be false. The EPA regularly tests hospital disinfectant products to ensure public health by determining the accuracy of the product labeling.

To read the EPA announcement, please visit:

Vulnerability Assessment Guide for Water Systems Released

The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) and the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) together released a joint vulnerability assessment guide for smaller drinking water systems serving between 3,300 and 10,000 people. A clear seven-step process is provided in the guide, which features a question-and-answer format recommending actions based on system-wide concerns as well as considerations specific to the individual plants. Under the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act, these drinking water systems are required to complete and submit vulnerability assessments by June 2004.

To access the guide, please visit:

Congressional Budget Office Report Predicts High Water Infrastructure Costs

This week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report predicting drinking water infrastructure investment costs ranging from $11.6 billion to $20.1 billion through 2019. Wastewater infrastructure costs are expected to range from $13 billion to $20.9 billion for the same period, according to the report. The report was prepared upon request of House and Senate committee leaders in an effort to gauge the cumulative costs of upgrading millions of miles of the country’s aged pipeline infrastructure. The figures provide both low and high-end estimates, and the CBO report notes that the high-end numbers are comparable to those estimates previously calculated by the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN).

To read the report, please visit:

Schools Overwhelmed by Mold

According to recent news reports, an alarming occurrence of mold in schools is interrupting the routines for thousands of school children across the country. Mold, which often induces allergic reactions among people having contact with its spores, is commonly found on carpets, walls and near ventilation systems. Reports of mold-related respiratory illnesses have parents pointing fingers at school administrators while some schools have faced lawsuits or have had to close while considerable repairs are made. Molds are microscopic fungi found both indoors and out, which multiply when tiny airborne seeds, or mold “spores,” land on moist surfaces. When its presence is not easily detected by its color, mold also is generally recognizable by a strong musty odor – commonly found in closets, bathrooms, refrigerators, behind walls and other dark areas where there may be a build-up of moisture.

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