Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – March 14th, 2003

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

March 14th, 2003

U.N. Report Outlines Problems Caused by Water Scarcity

A United Nations report issued last week stated that the world’s clean water resources are rapidly depleting, creating a serious threat to public health, food production, political stability and the environment. The “World Water Development Report – Water for People, Water for Life” was published in advance of next week’s Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan. The report states, “Attitude and behaviour problems lie at the heart of the crisis, inertia at leadership level, and a world population not fully aware of the scale of the problem means we fail to take the needed timely corrective actions.” However, the report advises that improved infrastructure, sensible pricing plans, conservation technologies and water treaties could help solve the water crisis. The report ranked the United States 12th in overall cleanliness of national water supplies and 63rd in the amount of water available per person.

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Water Industry Associations Express Concern Over Stage II DBP Rule

Four major water industry associations are raising concerns about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) upcoming Stage II Disinfection Byproduct (DBP) rule. In a February 28 letter to the Agency, the American Water Works Association, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, the National Association of Water Companies and the National Rural Water Association contend the EPA’s draft Stage 2 rule violates a binding agreement struck by a federal advisory committee relating to the manner in which disinfection byproducts are monitored. The agreement calls for the EPA to use an annual average of monitoring data to determine compliance with drinking water standards. Public water systems that have “excursions,” or variations of byproduct levels, during peak periods are to refer to EPA guidance for evaluating and reducing such peaks. EPA’s current draft of the rule defines a “significant excursion” based on a numeric value for a single sample. The water industry is concerned that this approach will be misunderstood and interpreted as a de facto single sample standard. In a letter to the EPA, the four groups write, “Proposing the rule in a way so flagrantly inconsistent with the [rulemaking] Agreement will release us from our pledge to refrain from action to inhibit the adoption of the final rule.” The rule is expected to be formally proposed in June.

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CDC, UNICEF To Expand Safe Water Initiative

According to an Associated Press report, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will soon announce its plans to expand the Safe Water System. Developed by the CDC in partnership with the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization, the Safe Water System is a water quality intervention program that employs simple, inexpensive technologies appropriate for the developing world. The program relies on disinfection using a sodium hypochlorite solution; safe water storage; and community education techniques to bring clean water to poor communities. Pilot programs using the system have been ongoing in 16 countries. According to the AP report, at the Third World Water Forum, to be held in Kyoto, Japan March 16-23, the CDC together with UNICEF and the non-profit Population Services International will announce an initiative to expand the program to 23 nations.

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Chlorine Dioxide Gas Successfully Decontaminates Brentwood Post Office Facility

After months of preparation following Anthrax contamination, the Brentwood mail-handling center in Washington, D.C. has been thoroughly decontaminated with chlorine dioxide gas. Before the gas was pumped into the building in December, test strips with a different bacillus were placed throughout the building to ensure that the fumigation would decontaminate the entire facility. The results showed that the chlorine dioxide gas killed 99 percent of the germs on test strips. According to Tom Day, the post office’s Chief of Engineering, the USPS will soon begin to renovate facility and plans to reoccupy the building this summer.

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Senator Boxer Proposes Early Perchlorate Regulation

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) last week introduced legislation that would require the EPA to set a standard for perchlorate contamination in drinking water supplies by July 1, 2004, two years earlier than the EPA’s current schedule. Perchlorate, a main ingredient in rocket fuel, was spilled into water supplies in more than 20 states during World War II and the Cold War by the defense industry. The chemical has been shown to pose numerous serious health risks relating to thyroid function and is also linked to thyroid cancer. Senator Boxer’s bill does not specify a particular perchlorate limit.

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