Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – February 25, 2002

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

February 25, 2002

Water Security Plan Passes House

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation to enhance the nation’s long-range water infrastructure security. In urging passage of the measure, Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY), co-author of the bill, said it has become clear, particularly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, that “while the nation’s water infrastructure provides safe and plentiful water to more than 250 million Americans, the system was not built with security from terrorism in mind.” The bill provides $60 million over five years for research and development projects to assess potential physical, chemical and cyber-related vulnerabilities of the system; to establish techniques for real time monitoring to detect threats; to develop mitigation, response and recovery methods; and to create mechanisms for information sharing about security issues. Media reports indicate that the Senate is expected to follow suit early in the 2002 congressional session with a bill that would authorize a total of $72 million over six years.

To view the bill, H.R. 3178, visit

Community Water Systems Improve Safety in 2001

Community Water System (CWS) violations of Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulations dropped slightly from 2000 to 2001. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that eighty-four percent of the violations occurred in small water systems serving 3,300 or fewer people. Last year, nine percent of CWSs nationwide registered some degree of error in abiding by maximum contaminant levels or regulations in treatment techniques. Regionally, the New England states (Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont) reported the poorest compliance record with only sixty-five percent of CWSs showing no sign of error. The best region, consisting of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, registered ninety-eight percent of CWSs as having no violations.

To read the EPA report, visit ( PDF)

Legislators Seek to Strengthen USDA Authority

In response to a recent federal appeals court decision that prohibited the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from shutting down meat processing plants that repeatedly output contaminated meat, Congressional measures are being introduced to restore the USDA’s authority in this arena. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is proposing a bill that would clarify and strengthen the USDA’s role and responsibilities. A companion bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives. In addition, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) plans to introduce a related bill that would grant greater protection to whistleblowers at meat plants and provide stricter policing of foodborne pathogens.

To view the USDA’s statement about the court decision, visit

Global Spread of Tuberculosis Affects United States

Federal health officials reported this month that the global tuberculosis (TB) epidemic is now threatening U.S. health experts’ attempts to eradicate the disease in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foreign-born residents account for 46% of the new cases of tuberculosis in the U.S. in 2000. The CDC also notes that limited access to health care, inadequate housing and nutrition for people born in other countries but living in the U.S. – especially illegal aliens – has likely contributed to the high rate of TB within the foreign-born group. TB is caused by airborne bacteria and is transmitted through coughing and close contact. Under most circumstances, it is curable with antibiotics. However, the disease can be deadly. Each year it kills two million people worldwide.

For more information about the global spread of TB, visit:

New Study Shows E. coli can Contaminate Lettuce via Soil and Irrigated Water

Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey concluded this month that E. coli can contaminate lettuce from soil and water containing infected manure. The study, funded by the USDA, consisted of scientists intentionally adding manure to soil and water used for irrigating a lettuce crop. Using a marker, the researchers were able to trace the targeted E. coli, and subsequently found the fecal residue within the vesicles of the lettuce. Washing contaminated lettuce, according to lead researcher Karl Robert Matthews, does not necessarily rid the lettuce of the dangerous E. coli pathogen. Chlorine sanitizers can kill what is on the surface of the lettuce, but E. coli can survive inside the plant, the researchers found. The FDA reports, however, that E. coli has not emerged as a problem in U.S. produce.

For more information about the Rutgers University findings, please visit:

Patriots Win Super Bowl and New Wastewater Recycling System

The New England Patriots are the Super Bowl champions. Along with all of the accolades, they also will be playing in a new stadium next season in Foxboro, Massachusetts. And with the new stadium – CMGi Field – they are implementing a new wastewater treatment and recycling system. The new system is designed to minimize water usage at the stadium through a process of treating and recycling flushwater. The stadium is the first in the National Football League to include wastewater recycling in its design.

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