Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – July 19th, 2002

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

July 19, 2002

New CDC Director Announced

Earlier this month, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Director Tommy Thompson announced the appointment of Dr. Julie Gerberding as the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Gerberding, an infectious disease specialist who played a prominent role in the investigation of last year’s anthrax outbreak, has led the center’s bioterrorism efforts since late March. Throughout the events of last fall, Gerberding won praise for her regular media briefings on the CDC’s efforts to control the anthrax situation. Gerberding will now be tasked with directing the Agency’s dual focus on bioterrorism and its longstanding public health agenda. At her appointment announcement, she pledged her commitment to aligning the goals of the Agency with those of the Bush administration and HHS, the CDC’s parent agency. Dr. Gerberding is the first woman to ever head the CDC.

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Report Finds EPA Unprepared for Terrorist Attack

If the terrorist attacks of September 11th had involved the use of chemical, biological or nuclear materials, the emergency response units of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would likely have been overwhelmed, according to a recently released internal assessment of the agency reported in The Washington Post. The study – commissioned by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to determine the lessons taken from the aftermath of the attacks – is part of an ongoing plan to improve the Agency’s preparedness and response efforts. Under federal law, the EPA is the main agency for providing support to state and local governments in the wake of incidents involving hazardous materials and is expected to be tapped to offer insight as the Bush administration considers plans for a new Department of Homeland Security.

To read The Washington Post’s article on the assessment, visit:

Water Utilities Favor Homeland Security Agency Over EPA

Water industry officials recently expressed their preference that water security matters be managed by the proposed U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rather than the EPA. Drinking water and wastewater experts testified before a Congressional panel that the proposed DHS would better protect sensitive vulnerability assessment reports and have stronger relationships with the intelligence community. Testifying before the House Energy & Commerce Committee, John Sullivan, President of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), asserted, “Sensitive information that is either voluntarily shared by utilities, required by the government or is produced by the government must not fall into the hands of those who wish to harm the nation.” Still wishing to maintain close ties with the EPA’s water security task force, Sullivan is a proponent of the DHS having more control so that “the highest possible protection for security, risk and other information will be assured.” Despite the focus on intelligence and security, it remains unclear what kind of authority the DHS would possess or where the boundaries would exist between the agency and the EPA.

To listen to an archived recording of the hearing, visit:

Grants Awarded to Drinking Water Systems for Security Assessments

The EPA recently announced its awarding of several grants to large drinking water systems serving more than 100,000 persons. The grants allow these systems to assess their vulnerabilities and improve security to protect against potential terrorist attacks. Since late May, 266 grants have been awarded to large public water systems, totaling over $3.5 million. In total, approximately 400 grants ($53 million) are expected to be awarded to these large public systems by the end of July.

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