Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – Febuary 20th, 2004

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

February 20, 2004The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a new testing technology for identifying E. coli in public water systems that will provide an additional level of safety and security for the use of public waters. The Colitag™ water-testing system, developed by CPI International of Santa Rosa, California, was published in the February 13, 2004 Federal Register.

Originally developed in the early 1990’s by Dr. George Chang of the University of California at Berkeley, the Colitag™ water testing technology is an improvement over existing E. coli detection methods. Colitag™ identifies E. coli that has been weakened but has survived conventional water treatment. Given the added layer of detection technology, the target water system can be identified for treatment and E.coli eradication.

Colitag™ will be utilized primarily by public agencies testing for E. coli in a variety of water systems, including drinking water, wastewater, public pools and beaches.

According to a recent Congressional investigation, while many U.S. states have improved their abilities to respond to public health crises, no state is fully prepared to respond to a bioterrorism threat or major public health-related disaster.

In testimony provided to the House Government Reform Committee, U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) Director of Healthcare and Public Health Issues, Janet Heinrich identified several issues of coordination, detection, and planning that do not currently meet established preparedness requirements. Areas outlined for improvement include outbreak detection capabilities, links between public health and animal surveillance systems, public communications capacity, and completed flu pandemic response plans.

The GAO reported that by August 30, 2004, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) will have distributed $870 million for state bioterrorism preparedness. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will have provided $498 million by that same date.
The Bush Administration has identified improvement of public health infrastructure to combat bioterrorism and the response to natural disease outbreak as one of its top priorities.

The GAO report Public Health Preparedness can be found at: ( PDF)

AMSA Research Supports National Commitment to Clean Water
USEPA Approves Detection Technology for E. Coli in Drinking Water
GAO Finds Bioterror Protection Gaps
The Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) has announced the results of a survey showing that the majority of Americans overwhelmingly support a long-term, federal commitment to water infrastructure funding.

Key findings include:

  • 91 percent of respondents “are concerned that America’s waterways will not be clean for future generations,”
  • 80 percent support legislation to create “a national long-term sustainable funding source for clean water,”
  • 80 percent “believe that if America can spend $87 billion to upgrade Iraqi and Afghan infrastructure, the same type of investment should be made at home,” and
  • 62 percent of respondents are supportive of a national clean water trust fund, while 25 percent support a roads and highway fund and just 5 percent are in favor of an airports and aviation fund.

Luntz Research and Strategic Services conducted the survey with 800 registered voters.

The AMSA survey results come on the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) FY2005 budget request seeking reduced spending on the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) in favor of a program of reduced infrastructure through improved utility management, conservation and enhanced watershed protection.

For the AMSA press release on the survey findings, click on to:

Deteriorating Water and Sanitation Conditions in Haiti Raise Concerns
Recent news of political upheaval on the island nation of Haiti have highlighted the growing concern over public water and sanitation health hazards present in the impoverished country where 80 percent of the population live below the poverty line and life expectancy is a mere 51 years.

According to Haitian government statistics, 60 percent of the country’s 8 million citizens do not have safe drinking water. Estimates in the most rural areas are as high as 75 percent. Yet tainted water is used regularly by a population without alternatives. As one Haitian mother states in a February 10, 2004 Washington Post article, “If it is clean, nothing will happen. When the water is not clean, my children get diarrhea.” Use of unsanitary drinking water in Haiti results in a number of gastrointestinal and diarrheal diseases which largely go untreated since many Haitians do not have access to the most basic medical care. Ten percent of Haiti’s extremely high infant mortality rate of 110 per 1,000 is attributable to dehydration from diarrheal diseases.

The Washington Post article reports on an ongoing public campaign to help Haitians disinfect the impure water they use. The campaign teaches individuals to drop a small quantity of chlorine bleach into their water buckets to purify the water. Efforts have also been underway to encourage boiling water to assist in purification. These solutions, though, are viewed as challenges on their own since money to buy bleach or purchase charcoal or gas to boil water is often not available.

For the full text of The Washington Post article “Haiti’s Never-Ending Thirst” click on:

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