Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – January 24th, 2003

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

January 24, 2003

More Community Drinking Water Systems Meeting Federal Standards

A recent report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows an increase in the number of community water systems (CWSs) meeting federal drinking water standards. The report, “Factoids: Drinking Water and Ground Water Statistics for 2002,” finds that 94% of CWSs met federal drinking water standards in 2002, up from 91 percent in 2001. The current number nearly meets the agency’s original target of 95 percent compliance by 2005 (from a baseline of 83% in 1994), yet the EPA has proposed pushing back the target date to 2008. Most violations were committed by smaller systems for failing to comply with the Total Coliform Rule.

To read the EPA report, please visit:

Legislation Would Protect Water Utilities from Lawsuits

A new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 306) would guard drinking water utilities from lawsuits pertaining to contaminated water, as long as the utilities are in compliance with federal and state standards. Under the legislation, if such a utility is sued, the defendant can petition a judge to prevent the case from going to court. Further, significant evidence would be required to prove the contaminant in question would incur the type of harm claimed by the plaintiff. Introduced by a bipartisan group of three California representatives, the bill seeks to prevent water utilities from having to spend the large sums of money required to defend a case in court.

For more information, please visit: and enter “H.R. 306” in the Bill Number search field.

EPA Offers Instructions for Completing Mandatory Water Security Assessments

To assist water systems conducting water vulnerability assessments (VAs) and emergency response plans (ERPs), the EPA has released instructions for completing the documents and a protocol for submitting them in a secure manner. As mandated by the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2002, water systems serving more than 3,300 people will submit VAs and ERPs to the EPA. Among the agency’s guidelines are descriptions of what a community water system must do to comply with the Act, the deadlines based on system size, how to determine system size, how to submit the package to EPA, and whom to contact for more information. Water systems serving over 100,000 people must complete their VAs by March 31, 2003; the deadline for systems serving 50,000 to 99,999 is December 31, 2003; the deadline for systems serving 3,300 to 49,999 is June 30, 2004. ERPs are due no later than six months following the submission of VAs.

To access the instructions, please visit:

CDC Estimates of Flu Deaths Higher than Previously Reported

Recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the number of people dying from influenza every year in the U.S. is significantly higher than in earlier estimates. According to the new data, the flu claims the lives of approximately 36,000 people every year, up from 20,000 deaths estimated in previous years. According to the CDC, the increase in flu-related fatalities may be partially a result of the rapidly aging U.S. population. In addition, the most severe strain of the virus, influenza A (H3N2), has been the most common over the last decade. CDC officials point to flu vaccinations as the most critical means of preventing the flu and flu-related deaths, particularly among adults 65 and over, those with heart and lung disease and healthcare workers. The flu season in the U.S. commonly peaks between December and March.

For more information, please visit:

EPA to Convene Forum on Sustainable Water Infrastructure

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman will convene a forum of experts in an effort to exchange information and ideas on managing the nation’s water assets and financing critical infrastructure. The event, to be held on January 31, 2003 in Washington, DC, will bring together business executives and private-sector investors, local and state water and health officials, international experts, as well as authorities from academia, non-governmental organizations and federal agencies. The day will be broken up into two expert panels – “Managing Water and Infrastructure Assets Panel” and “Sustainable Infrastructure Financing Panel.”

For more information about the forum, please visit:

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