Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – May 14th, 2004

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

May 14, 2004

Legislation Introduced to Strengthen Lead Reduction Requirements in Drinking Water

In response to the high levels of lead that have been found in Washington, DC’s water system, legislation to eliminate lead from the nation’s drinking water was introduced in both branches of Congress last week. The Lead-Free Drinking Water Act would mandate that utilities across the country immediately test their water and establish stricter standards for notifying customers of problems. The proposal would provide $200 million a year for four years to utilities to meet more stringent standards to replace lead service lines.

Thousands of homes in the nation’s capital have tested for lead levels above 15 parts per billion in their tap water. The Lead-Free Drinking Water Act would earmark $40 million for pipe replacement in Washington, DC alone.

The U.S. EPA estimates that the U.S. will need to spend $265 billion over the next two decades to upgrade drinking water systems, according to Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT), who co-sponsored the bill.

The following is a link to Senator Jeffords press release on the proposed lead-free drinking water legislation:

A posting of the Lead-Free Drinking Water Act of 2004 can be found at:

White House Announces Effort to Strengthen Nation’s Biodefenses

A presidential directive providing a framework for the nation’s biodefense system was recently released by the Bush administration. The directive, Biodefense for the 21st Century, outlines the basic structure of the U.S. biodefense program and offers specific initiatives based on programs that have been established in the last three years.

It is reported that federal investment in biodefense is up seventeen times in the past two years. The President has proposed another significant increase for 2005.

Federal departments and agencies have undertaken efforts to determine innovative ways to secure the United States from biological weapons attacks after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Included in the review are programs from various communities, including national security, intelligence, medical, public health, diplomatic, agricultural and law enforcement.

The complete HHS Fact Sheet: Biodefense Preparedness can be found at:
CDC Reports Decrease in U.S. E. coli Illnesses

According to new data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) FoodNet surveillance system, the number of people in the U.S. who became ill from E. coli fell sharply last year.

In 2003 there were 443 laboratory confirmed U.S. cases of E. coli — 36 percent lower than the previous year. In addition, there was a decrease in illnesses caused by the three most prevalent foodborne organisms – Campylobacter, Salmonella and Yersinia. The reported drop was credited to increased awareness efforts by industry official and federal and state regulators. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been active in strengthening the inspection process of meat and urging producers to adopt new technologies.

On average, the CDC estimates that 76 million people in the U.S. become ill annually after digesting undercooked meat, eggs, shellfish and unpasteurized dairy products that contain bacteria.

To view the complete CDC report, please go to:
EPA Funds Drinking Water Counter-Terrorism Efforts

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has allocated nearly $5 million in state and tribal assistance grants to assist drinking water systems across the nation. The funding is earmarked to bolster defenses from possible terrorism acts against U.S. public water systems.

Under a program initiated in 2002, the grants are allocated for continued support of counter-terrorism coordination with state, local and federal governments. The effort was developed to ensure drinking water utilities receive technical assistance and training on homeland security issues, including vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans.

Along with the grant allocation, an additional $2 million in funding has been established for the Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) program, an initiative conducted in conjunction with the EPA Office of Water. ETV was developed to create innovative protocols and testing technologies to monitor the safety and security of the nation’s drinking water systems and supplies. It is anticipated that these technologies will provide dual benefits to homeland security efforts, offering an additional level of protection from potential biological and chemical contamination of U.S. drinking water supplies.

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