Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – June 8th, 2005

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

June 28, 2005

EPA Report Finds Large-Scale Investment Needed for Safe Drinking Water

The nation’s water utilities are outdated and in need of an estimated $277 billion in investments over the next 20 years to ensure a safe drinking water supply, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) third Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment. The national assessment covers the infrastructure needs of approximately 53,000 community water systems and 21,400 not-for-profit non-community water systems found in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Pacific island territories and American Indian and Alaska native village water systems.

Data gathered from the EPA survey assessment is used to develop a formula to distribute agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) grants.

Since the DWSRF program’s inception in 1997, EPA has made $8 billion available in funding to states for infrastructure projects. States supplement their EPA grants by matching funds with bonds, repayments and interest earnings. Currently, water utilities pay for infrastructure using revenue from rates charged to customers and can finance large projects through loans or bonds. Although there are state and federal funding programs, significant additional monies are required to meet investment needs as identified in the EPA report.

The Safe Drinking Water Act mandates that EPA conduct an assessment every four years and report the findings to Congress with 2003 data that cites anticipated costs for repairs and replacement of transmission and distribution pipes, storage and treatment equipment and projects, which are necessary to provide safe supplies of drinking water.

To read the complete report, please go to:
http://www.epa.gov/safewater/needssurvey/
WHO: Afghan Cholera Outbreak Feared

More than 3,000 residents of Kabul, Afghanistan have reported symptoms consistent with cholera, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), triggering international health experts to warn that the city is on the verge of an epidemic. The outbreak threat has prompted Afghan authorities to quickly chlorinate approximately 700 drinking water wells across the capital city after the deaths of at least eight residents from the waterborne disease.

According to WHO, while cholera is the likely source of the outbreak a dispute continues over the specific type of waterborne disease that is affecting the Afghan population. There is additional ongoing local debate as to the number of deaths and reported cases.

Severe cases of diarrhea have been the main symptom reported by area hospitals. Authorities have launched a campaign urging people to boil drinking water, wash vegetables before eating them and regularly wash hands.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.

To read more about cholera from the World Health Organization, please go to:
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs107/en/
Poll Reveals Public Focused on Safe Drinking Water

A recent public opinion poll indicates that clean water is a high priority, national issue requiring a dedicated federal funding stream, according to pollster Dr. Frank Luntz in his testimony before the U.S. House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. Poll results show strong public support for investment in water infrastructure and the creation of a trust fund dedicated to maintaining the nation’s water network.

Among the poll’s findings are the following:

* 91% of respondents believe that “if, as a country, we are willing to invest over $30 billion a year on highways and more than $8 billion a year on our airways, we certainly should be willing to make the necessary investments in our lakes, rivers and oceans.”

* 71% of respondents chose investment in clean and safe water as a priority, compared to just 20% who choose roads and highways, and 3% who choose airports and aviation.

* Four times as many Americans believe there should be “a dedicated funding source to ensure clean and safe water for future generations” (73%) as those who believe our water infrastructure “should not receive federal funding but should continue to be funded as it is today.” (18%).

In addition, the poll found that the public would pay more for clean water. When presented which the information that the federal government currently pays 5 percent of the costs of ensuring that water is clean and safe, four out of five Americans said it was “unfair and unacceptable”.

Commissioned by the National Association of Clean Water Surveys, the poll was conducted in March 2005 by Luntz Research Companies and Penn Schoen and Berland. The results were announced at a Congressional hearing on the creation of a federal trust fund to bridge the growing funding gap between infrastructure needs and current levels of investment.

To read Dr. Luntz’s complete Congressional testimony regarding the poll, please go to:
http://www.house.gov/transportation/water/06-08-05/luntz.pdf ( PDF)
EPA Partners to Reduce Drinking Water Lead Level Risks for Children

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is leading a federal, state and local partnership assisting childcare facilities and schools with an educational initiative on drinking water lead exposure reduction. On-site testing of drinking water for lead content will be the main focus of the partnership’s efforts.

With children spending a significant part of the day in school and child care facilities, the EPA believes exposure to lead is a significant health concern, particularly for young children and infants. Among the initial partnership goals are development of an educational platform that encourages schools and childcare facilities to test drinking water for lead, dissemination of test results to parents, students and staff and an agreement on a process for taking actions to correct drinking water quality problems.

The EPA reports that adverse health effects from lead in children can include impaired mental development, IQ deficits, shorter attention spans, and lower birth weight.

The partnership was formalized by an agreement signed by the Department of Education, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Water Works Association, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, National Association of Water Companies, National Rural Water Association, Association of State Drinking Water Administrators and the EPA.

To read a copy of the agreement, please go to:
http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lcrmr/lead_review.html – schools

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