Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – July 18th, 2003

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

July 18, 2003

EPA Proposes Rules to Improve Microbial Protection, Reduce DBP Levels

On July 11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed two proposed rules, the Stage 2 Disinfection and Disinfection Byproducts Rule (Stage 2 DBP) and Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2ESWTR). Developed in partnership with a wide range of interests, including water systems, environmental groups, industry stakeholders, and state and local health officials, these rules would require drinking water systems to monitor for and increase protection against Cryptosporidium while expanding the monitoring and control of DBPs. Said EPA Acting Administrator Linda Fisher, “These rules take the right approach toward minimizing and balancing the risks from microbial contamination and disinfection byproducts. They represent the culmination of more than a decade of analysis, research, and partnership focused on making the nation’s drinking water safer.”

According to the EPA, the Stage 2 DBP Rule will further protect public health from byproducts formed during chemical disinfection widely used by public water systems as a principal barrier to microbial pathogens in drinking water. This rule contains a risk-targeting approach to better identify monitoring sites where customers are exposed to high levels of DBPs. The LT2ESWTR aims to reduce disease incidence associated with Cryptosporidium and other pathogenic microorganisms in drinking water. The LT2ESWTR will supplement existing regulations by targeting additional Cryptosporidium treatment requirements to higher risk systems. The LT2ESWTR will involve monitoring and reporting requirements for all public water systems that use surface water sources, including ground water under the direct influence of surface water.

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WHO Declares SARS Contained Worldwide

In early July, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that SARS has been contained around the world, with no new cases reported since June 15. However, the W.H.O. urged caution as the disease could still pose a threat. Taiwan, the last place on the list of SARS-affected areas, was removed because no new cases were reported there for 20 days – twice the disease’s incubation period. Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the WHO’s director general, warned that the world is not yet SARS-free and that one single case could spark a new outbreak.

More information is available at:

Nation’s First Human West Nile Virus Case in 2003 Reported in South Carolina

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first human case of West Nile Virus in 2003 in South Carolina. West Nile Virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, peaks July through October, and last year spread to 44 states, with 39 states and the District of Columbia reporting human cases. So far in 2003, West Nile Virus activity in mosquitoes, birds and horses is comparable to that observed last year. In 2002, there were 4,156 reported cases in humans, including 284 deaths. The CDC notes that West Nile Virus infection may be prevented by wearing insect repellants with DEET, wearing light, long-sleeved clothing, emptying standing water, and installing screens. It is also recommended that dead birds be reported to local health authorities. Approximately one of every five people who are bitten by an infected mosquito experience any illness. The illness is generally mild, but serious illness and death are possible, especially for people over age 50.

Additional information is available at:

New Website Educates Healthcare Providers About Water Terrorism

The American College of Preventative Medicine (ACPM) recently launched a new website as part of an effort to educate healthcare providers about how to detect and respond to a water terrorism attack. The new site,, contains a repository of educational information and preparedness resources for practicing physicians. According to the ACPM, many practicing physicians in the United States have received little or no formalized training in the recognition and evaluation of waterborne disease and the health effects of water pollution. The information available on this site will help physicians minimize the impact of a water terrorism attack in their community.

Visit the site at

Bacteria-Based Biosensors Detect Chemical Contaminants in Water

An article published in Environmental Protection magazine asserts that water systems across the country are moving toward bacteria-based biosensors to test for contaminants and biotoxins, versus standard toxicity tests, since the biosensors provide a rapid and accurate indication of contamination. According the author, Robert Ferguson of Strategic Diagnostics, another advantage of bacteria-based biosensors is that they are portable, which makes rapid response and field-testing practical. Typically, water samples are collected at regular intervals from numerous points in the water system, such as the water source, points throughout the treatment process, before and after chlorination and at key points in the distribution system. A portable biosensor test can be used to analyze samples at remote locations without having to bring samples back to the lab. Additionally, bacteria-based biosensors can detect a wide range of chemical contaminants and toxins. Finally, bacteria-based biosensors are said to offer a high level of sensitivity, but a very low incidence of false alarms.

To read the article, please visit: ( PDF)

Inadequate Water System Chlorination Blamed for Arizona Deaths

A lawyer representing the families of two boys who died after exposure to contaminated water has filed a complaint with Arizona’s Maricopa County. Since the October 2002 deaths, three of seven water samples that Maricopa County sent to labs from the Peoria and Rose Valley water systems and a refrigerator filter at one of the children’s homes have tested positive for the microorganism Naegleria fowleri. Independent tests carried out at the behest of the county revealed that the water taken from the systems contained virtually no chlorine. Since the deaths, the Rose Valley Water Company has begun chlorinating its water.

For more information, please visit: ( PDF)

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