Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – February 28th, 2003

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

February 28th, 2003

White House Releases National Security Strategies for Critical Infrastructures

The White House released the final National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets, as the Homeland Security Department elevated the national terrorism risk warning level to orange. For public water supplies, the strategy calls for developing vulnerability assessment methodologies and associated training, establishing a Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), and asks the USEPA and other federal agencies to provide baseline threat information as well as collect and distribute other threat information. Additional suggestions include:

* Identifying high-priority vulnerabilities and improving site security,
especially to secure key points of storage, treatment and distribution, with USEPA and the Department of Homeland Security providing the tools, training and limited financial assistance for related research.
* Improving the monitoring and analytical capabilities, with the USEPA continuing to lead efforts that will improve information about harmful contaminants.
* Improving information exchange and coordinating contingency planning,
with USEPA and DHS leading efforts to ensure the reliability of the Water ISAC and to standardize and coordinate emergency response efforts and communication protocols.

The document also includes a strategy for the public health sector, including state and local health departments, hospitals, health clinics, mental health facilities, nursing homes, blood-supply facilities, laboratories, mortuaries, and pharmaceutical stockpiles.

More information is available at:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/pcipb/physical.html

Congress Approves Omnibus Spending Bill; Funds Allocated for Water Protection

Four months into the fiscal year, Congress approved the FY2003 spending bill last week, allocating funds for a variety of water protection and security-related initiatives as well as training and research programs. Among the specific appropriations for water activities are:

  • $50 million for water and wastewater projects along the US/Mexico border
  • $18 million for rural water and groundwater protection programs
  • $2 million for small systems to complete vulnerability assessments
  • $2 million for source water protection programs
  • $1 million for training water utilities in security activities

Overall, Congress approved $8.1 billion for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information about the specific appropriations set forth in the bill, please visit:
http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app03.html

Fluoride to be Added to Southern California Water Supplies

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the state’s largest water agency, will now add fluoride to the water it supplies to 18 million homes and business, a process that will take more than two years to fully implement. Currently, only 37 percent of Californians receive fluoridated drinking water, according to the Dental Health Foundation. The director of the water district, Ronald Gastelum, estimates that adding fluoride to the water will cost customers less than $1 per year, and notes that the American Dental Association estimates that every dollar spent on putting fluoride in water saves approximately $80 in dental care costs. Said Gastelum, “At a cost of less than a dollar a family, the dental and medical health communities believe fluoridation offers Southern California consumers an additional level of public health protection.”

For more information, visit:
http://www.mwd.dst.ca.us/mwdh2o/pages/news/press_releases/2003-02/fluoridation.htm

Parents of Peoria Meningitis Victims File Lawsuit Against Local Water Company

Last October, two Peoria, AZ boys tragically died after becoming infected with a rare form of amoebic meningitis, Naegleria fowleri. Now, according to an Associated Press report, the boys’ parents are suing the company that provided the water, Rose Valley Water Co., claiming the company failed to ensure the health of its customers by providing unchlorinated and contaminated water to it customers. Rose Valley Water Co. disputes the charges based on its adherence to regulations for water quality testing and drinking water safety. Small, private water companies are not legally required to chlorinate their supply. In late January, the water company was allowed to resume supplying water to residents. The City of Peoria had assumed temporary responsibility for supplying water from its surface water systems.

For more information, please visit:
http://www.maricopa.gov/pio/water/


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