Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – June 16th, 2006

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

June 16, 2006

WHO Releases Swimming Pool Guidelines

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published its long-awaited health and safety guidelines for swimming pools and hot tubs. This document provides the first comprehensive, international guidance to help maximize public health benefits and minimize hazards associated with these facilities.

The document, Guidelines for Safe Recreational Water Environments, Volume 2: Swimming Pools and Similar Environments (Guidelines), took more than 10 years to develop and involved the participation of numerous institutions and more than 60 experts from 20 countries worldwide.

The Guidelines review and assess a wide range of health hazards, including drowning and injury, microbial contaminants and air quality related to swimming pool and hot tub use. The document provides comprehensive guidance for monitoring and controlling these hazards through public education, good design and construction, and proper operation and management practices.

The Guidelines outline the following elements necessary to properly manage air and water quality:

* Disinfection
* Filtration
* Water circulation
* Fresh water addition (to dilute substances that cannot be removed by treatment)
* Cleaning
* Adequate ventilation of indoor facilities

The Guidelines note that standards and recommendations for disinfectant levels vary widely and should continue to be set at the local level. However, WHO emphasizes that disinfectant levels must always provide satisfactory microbial quality. For chlorinated pools, the Guidelines recommend levels at least 1 mg/L of chlorine throughout the pool. WHO concludes in the report that in well-managed pools, the risks from chlorinated byproducts are “considered to be small and must be set against the benefits of aerobic exercise and the risks of infectious disease in the absence of disinfection.”

An upcoming Water Quality and Health Council newsletter article will provide a more thorough discussion of air and water quality management practices addressed in the Guidelines.

The WHO document can be downloaded from:

Polio Reappears in Namibia

After a decade without a reported incident of polio, the southern African nation of Namibia is experiencing a fast-moving spread of the disease that has killed ten and paralyzed 60 in recent weeks. Transmitted through oral contact with fecally-contaminated water or food infected with the poliomyelitis virus, the Namibian outbreak is considered highly unusual because the disease is striking adults, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Polio normally attacks infants and young adults, and causes paralysis in approximately 1 out of every 200 cases. However, according to WHO the disease is far more likely to cause paralysis and/or death in adults who contract the disease.

WHO officials explain the unusual spread of the disease into Namibian adult populations could be caused by the fact that polio vaccination was not routine before 1990. Since then, the vaccine has been given only to children under 5 years old, as is normal public health routine around the globe. The result is that Namibians currently over 15 years of age are not protected from the polio virus and have no natural immunity from exposure in the general population.

Initially news out of the region reported that polio vaccine was in short supply and ran out quickly, leaving Namibian hospitals in the nation’s four affected regions to turn people away. After an international call for assistance, a donation of 2.5 million doses of polio vaccine by the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will provide public health officials enough medication to begin an immunization program scheduled to begin June 21.

For updated information on the Namibian polio outbreak from WHO, please visit ReliefWeb at:

EPA Introduces Online Tools for Water Quality Compliance

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a package of online tools this month to help state, local and Federal water management officials comply with the new Long-Term 2 (LT2) Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule and the Stage 2 disinfection byproducts (DBP) rule. The compliance tools are a response to the implementation of EPA’s long-awaited LT2 rule, a regulatory measure developed to reduce illness linked with disease-causing microorganisms in drinking water, including the waterborne pathogen Cryptosporidium.

The EPA estimates that full compliance with the LT2 rule will reduce the incidence of Cryptosporidiosis, the gastro-intestinal illness caused by Cryptosporidium infection, by approximately 90,000 to 1.5 million cases per year.

The two new EPA online tools are the Data Collection and Tracking System (DCTS) and the Initial Distribution System Evaluation (IDSE) Tool. According to EPA, the DCTS is composed of two elements: the LT2 Data Collection System, which addresses microbial monitoring data under the LT2 rule, and the LT2/Stage 2 Tracking System, a measuring protocol set to be used by state and EPA staff during the implementation of both rules.

The IDSE Tool also features two components: a “wizard” that helps utilities determine which evaluation tool is best for their water system, and a custom form creation feature that guides users through the completion and submittal of their selected option.

To review the EPA’s new compliance tools, please go to:
New EPA Affordable-Treatment Guidelines for Small Drinking Water Systems

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new guidance document to help small water system operators provide safe drinking water to their customers in more cost-effective ways. The EPA’s Point-of-Use or Point-of-Entry Treatment Options for Small Drinking Water Systems report provides utility operators and water officials with information and support on water treatment devices that can be installed at a consumer’s tap (point-of-use) or on the water line to a consumer’s home or building (point-of-entry).

Cost has been identified by EPA as a major obstacle for small systems operators to install and operate contaminant-removal technologies in central treatment plants. As part of the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, Congress specifically allowed systems to install point-of-use and point-of-entry treatment devices to achieve compliance with National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.

Point-of-use devices (e.g., reverse-osmosis filters) are normally installed under a kitchen sink and can comply with drinking water standards for such contaminants as arsenic, lead and radium. Point-of-entry devices installed outside the homes or businesses can treat an even wider variety of contaminants, according to EPA. Based on agency’s most recent data, the devices can reduce operational costs by more than 50 percent, depending on local conditions.

The new guideline also addresses operational issues including pilot testing, public education and maintenance.

For PDF of the full EPA report, please go to:
Point-of-Use or Point-of-Entry Treatment Options for Small Drinking Water Systems

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