Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – July 9th, 2004

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

July 9, 2004

CDC Report Sparks Public Health Concern for Hot Tubs

New research released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that more than half of the public hot tub spas in the U.S. violate public health safety standards. Of the more than 5,000 public hot tub facilities inspected for the CDC report, 57% had one or more safety violations. Eleven percent of inspections found violations significant enough to warrant immediate facility closure.

Hot tubs located at hotels, motels and campgrounds were found to be the largest offenders. The most common violation was poor water quality.

Researchers found that the high temperature of the hot tub waters depleted disinfectants, making the spas an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, including Legionella and other waterborne diseases. During 1999-2000 a total of 13 outbreaks of infectious disease attributed to public and private spa use were reported, affecting 183 people.

The CDC report concludes that more rigorous safety inspections, improved training for spa operators, better maintenance programs, responsible personal hygiene, and heightened public education are needed to reduce the threat to public health posed by hot tubs.

For more on the CDC report click on:

Bill Introduced to Relax Arsenic Rule for Small Public Water Systems

A bill recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would give small public water systems more control in how they comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) arsenic rule. Representative C.L. “Butch” Otter (R-ID) and eight House members co-sponsored HR 4717, which would, if approved, “allow small public water systems to request an exemption from the requirements of any national primary drinking water regulation for a naturally occurring contaminant, and for other purposes.”

According to its supporters, the bill will give small communities more input on how they comply with EPA drinking water regulations for arsenic and other naturally occurring drinking water substances. The current EPA arsenic rule enacted in January 2001 includes a stringent 10-microgram/L arsenic standard that has been criticized for the way it regulates small communities via uniform technology-driven standards. The EPA regulatory measure is also viewed as unfair for its method of imposing fines for non-compliance regardless of fiscal impact to local communities.

Contaminants other than arsenic that would be covered under the proposed legislation include various disinfection by-products, including bromate, chlorite, haloacetic acids and total trihalomethanes.

HR 4717 was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for discussion.

For a full reading of the EPA Arsenic Rule, please go to:
WASA Says It Will Go Beyond Lead and Copper Rule

Faced with documented multiple failures to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) has pledged in its Community Water Pledge to go “above and beyond” a lengthy list of actions required by an EPA consent agreement. In a four-month audit of WASA’s LCR actions, EPA found that DC public utility officials withheld results of its tap water sampling program that would have put the utility district in noncompliance in 2001 instead of 2002.

The EPA report concluded that WASA’s failure to report the results of six key water samples led EPA officials to believe for a full year that lead levels were within acceptable limits. The results of which delayed mitigation efforts, including monitoring, lead service line replacement and public education efforts.

Among its commitments, the WASA pledge specifies that they will accelerate the pace of lead service line replacements, convene a national workshop on its LCR experience, and create quick-response mobile water quality units. At the risk of incurring daily fines of up to $32,500, under the EPA agreement WASA must execute the following:

* Replace all lead service lines rather that rely on testing;
* Replace an additional 7 percent of its lead service lines in the next 2 years to make up for the year when data was withheld,
* Double the number of priority lead service line replacement locations
* Continue distributing household lead filtration units; and
* Provide homeowners with sample test kits within 3 business days of receiving result

New Book Highlights Lessons Learned From Drinking Water-Related Outbreaks

Steve Hrudey and Elizabeth Hrudey have co-authored a new book examining the factors that have contributed to or caused recent drinking-water-transmitted disease outbreaks in wealthy nations. Safe Drinking Water: Lessons From Recent Outbreaks in Affluent Nations contains detailed analysis and lessons learned from the public water supply infrastructure failures that have given rise to waterborne disease epidemics in even the most modern public water systems.

Citing case studies of over 60 waterborne outbreaks from 15 affluent countries over the past 30 years, the authors both reveal the recurring themes and patterns, and analyze the important contributing human dimension that have led to the spread of gastrointestinal microbial pathogens in communities normally removed from the dangers of an infected water supply.

The case studies, the authors conclude, reveal in hindsight that these outbreaks were preventable. The book “offers an opportunity to learn from failures elsewhere and to avoid learning painful lessons the hard way.”

Safe Drinking Water offers insights into more effective and more individualized preventive strategies, personnel training, management, and regulatory control to inform drinking water and health professionals including operators, managers, engineers, chemists and microbiologists, and regulators.

Ordering information for Safe Drinking Water can be found at the following website address:

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