Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – January 12th, 2007

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

January 12, 2007

CDC Releases Latest Recreational Water Disease Surveillance Data

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) published the results of its 2003-2004 “Surveillance for Waterborne Disease and Outbreaks Associated with Recreational Water in the U.S.” in the December 22 issue of the agency’s publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. According to the report, there were a total 62 waterborne disease outbreaks (WBDOs) associated with recreational water spread across 26 states and Guam during 2003-2004. The total represents a slight decrease from the 2001-2002 data in which a record number of WBDOs (65) were reported.

CDC has maintained a Waterborne Disease and Outbreak Surveillance System (WBDOSS) for collecting and reporting WBDO data in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists since 1971.

For the 2003-2004 WBDO totals, illnesses occurred in 2,698 persons causing 58 hospitalizations and one fatality. Thirty of the outbreaks were gastroenteritis-related from infectious agents, chemicals or toxins, resulting in 72% of all WBDO-related illnesses. Of these, Cryptosporidium was confirmed as the causal agent in 11 cases – the single largest number source of recreational water-associated outbreaks. Additionally, the WBDOSS findings showed 13 outbreaks of dermatitis and 7 of acute respiratory illness.

According to CDC, the number of reported recreational water-associated WBDOs and gastroenteritis outbreaks have increased significantly since CDC first began receiving reports. The report proposes that the increases are likely to be the result of several factors, including emerging pathogens (e.g., Cryptosporidium), increased participation in water activities and increases in the number of aquatic venues. CDC researchers also posit that increased disease recognition, investigation and recreational water-associated outbreaks reporting also could be contributing factors to the increase.

With nearly 70% of the outbreaks occurred at treated water venues, the researchers also reported some common contributing factors of the recreational water outbreaks in the study’s conclusion. These factors include:

* low disinfectant levels
* inadequate water quality monitoring
* equipment breakdowns and lengthy detection times
* inadequately trained aquatic staff
* lack of public awareness of appropriate healthy swimming behaviors

For more on the results of the CDC report, please go to:

For information from the Water Quality & Health Council on guidelines and recommendations to improve swimming pool health, please go to:

Boxer Introduces New Bills Addressing Perchlorate Issues

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the new chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), has introduced two new bills aimed at controlling the chemical perchlorate in U.S. drinking water. Used in rocket fuel, military munitions and some consumer products, perchlorate has been found in drinking water supplies in at least 35 states. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), waste from manufacturers and improper disposal of perchlorate-containing chemicals are increasingly being discovered in soil and water.

One bills sponsored by Senator Boxer (S. 150) seeks to direct EPA to issue a health advisory for perchlorate and to set a standard for the substance. The second bill (S. 24) would require drinking water utilities to monitor for perchlorate. EPA does not currently require perchlorate monitoring citing that previous monitoring has provided sufficient occurrence and exposure data. The agency says it is now studying health effects data for perchlorate, which has been linked to thyroid disease, before deciding whether or not to regulate the substance.

In a move signaling a more aggressive approach for EPW in 2007, Senator Boxer named former Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Erik Olson as deputy staff director and general counsel of the committee. A veteran of drinking water quality activism and co-author of several reports on the nation’s drinking water supply, Olson has been highly critical of past administrations and their handing of water regulatory issues.

For information from the EPA on perchlorate, please go to:

Researchers Say Bird Flu Not Likely to Spread Through Water Systems

Research conducted by Cornell University and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has demonstrated that a virus closely related to the avian influenza virus (H5N1) can be inactivated through chlorination, ultraviolet radiation and bacterial digesters under typical drinking water and wastewater treatment conditions. The study, “Inactivation of the Avian Influenza Virus (H5N2) in Typical Domestic Wastewater and Drinking Water Treatment Systems,” was published in a recent issue of Environmental Engineering Science.

The H5N1 virus has killed millions of birds globally and more than half of the almost 200 infected people since 2003. Multiple reports from researchers, health officials and government agencies around the globe have expressed deep concerned that if H5N1 mutates to transmit between humans that a global pandemic could occur.

For the study researchers tested the human-safe H5N2 virus, a pathogen related to H5N1 that provided a test case for studying the potential for the virus to spread via the wastewater-treatment process. The study was designed to test the potential infection capacity of the H5N1 virus if a human outbreak occurred and contaminated feces passed through wastewater treatment plants, threatening facility workers and the public drinking water supply.

Researchers exposed the virus-contaminated drinking water and wastewater effluents to UV light at varying levels and found UV radiation to be a very effective method for killing the H5N2 virus. Similar tests with chlorine were considered successful as well, but less definitive, with inactivation of the virus dependant upon both the chlorine concentration and the time of exposure. Researchers recommended further chlorine tests to see if the viruses remain active when they come out of feces or are at different pH and salinity levels. Bacterial digesters also reduced H5N2 to undetectable levels.

For an abstract of the study, please go to:

EPA to Hold Stakeholder Drinking Water Rule Workshop

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public technical workshop to discuss available information on the Total Coliform Rule (TCR) and on the risks associated with public water distribution systems. The stakeholder workshop is part of EPA’s ongoing process to revise the TCR.

The 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act require EPA to review and revise, as appropriate, each national primary drinking water regulation no less often than every six years. As part of its most recent review, EPA published its decision to revise the TCR and stated that it plans to consider potential new requirements to protect the integrity of distribution systems. EPA has compiled available information on the potential public health impacts of a range of distribution system issues and on potential opportunities to reduce TCR implementation burdens, while maintaining or improving public health protection.

The TCR became effective in 1990, requiring all public water systems to monitor for the presence of total coliforms in the distribution system, as well as outlining the type and frequency of testing that public water systems must undergo. Total coliforms are a group of related bacteria that, while generally not harmful to humans, are determined by EPA to be a useful indicator of microbial contamination in drinking water systems.

Based on the determinations of the workshop, EPA may consider creating a Federal Advisory Committee to provide recommendations on a process for possible TCR revisions and the addressing of public health risk from contamination of distribution systems.

The EPA workshop will be held in Washington, DC Tuesday, January 30 through Thursday, February 1, 2007.

For general information on the TCR please visit:

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