Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – October 11th, 2002

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

October 11, 2002

EPA Projects $500 Billion Above Current Spending Needed for Water Infrastructure

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, highlighting a new agency report on the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure funding needs, said that more than $500 billion above current spending trends would be needed to overhaul the nation’s aging systems. The EPA’s The Clean Water and Drinking Water Gap Analysis, projecting system requirements out to 2019, shows a $270 billion gap for operating, maintaining, and improving wastewater treatment systems. The gap for the network of drinking water systems totals $265 billion. The report notes that if the nation could increase annual revenue by 3 percent, the gap for wastewater infrastructure would be reduced 90 percent. For drinking water, the gap shrinks 80 percent with the same 3 percent annual revenue increase. Speaking to system operators and engineers at the Water Environment Federation’s annual conference in Chicago, Whitman said solving the funding crisis would not only require money, but also new technologies and participation and commitment from government, business, utilities, and users. Whitman will convene a forum of these stakeholders early in 2003 to focus on technical solutions and financial innovations.

To read The Clean Water and Drinking Water Gap Analysis, visit: ( PDF)

EPA Releases New Homeland Security Strategies

A new plan set forth by the EPA outlines new goals for the agency in an atmosphere of heightened alert for domestic terrorist attacks. The initiatives in the Strategic Plan for Homeland Security fall into four major mission areas: 1) infrastructure protection; 2) preparedness, response and recovery; 3) communication and information; and 4) protection of EPA personnel and infrastructure. The plan lays out goals, tactics and results in each of these core areas. The announcement comes in the wake of a number of other EPA initiatives following the September 11th attacks, including adding response personnel, advanced training and equipment and $50 million in grants to the nation’s largest drinking water facilities to assess vulnerabilities and make improvements. Particular emphasis will be placed on providing the best resources for water facilities to safeguard against possible attacks.

For more information, please visit:

Mosquitoes Infected with Malaria Found in Eastern U.S.

Mosquitoes tested positive for malaria in Virginia and Maryland, after two Loudoun County, VA teenagers contracted the disease in August. The discovery marks the first domestic presence of the disease in mosquitoes and humans in the United States in over 20 years. Officials were able to test the presence of malaria among local mosquitoes by placing traps along sections of the Potomac River. According to various news sources, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plan to use genetic fingerprinting in hopes of tracing the source of the parasite and possibly the country of origin. Transmitted by bites from mosquitoes, symptoms of malaria include high fever and chills. The disease claims the life of approximately three million people each year, according to World Health Organization estimates.

For more information on malaria, please visit:

U.S. Department of Agriculture Toughens Food Safety Policies to Prevent E.coli

New measures by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) raise standards for meat processing plants to prevent widespread E.coli contamination. “The scientific data show that E.coli O157:H7 is more prevalent than previously estimated,” according to Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elsa Murano. The new policy gives the agency greater authority to close plants not meeting inspection standards. Among the requirements, meat plants must comply with random testing for E.coli by USDA personnel and avoid mixing meats from different suppliers to prevent cross contamination. This past summer, a voluntary recall of 18.6 million pounds of ground beef was issued after 19 cases of illness were reported in three states. It was the second largest recall of its kind in U.S. history. To prevent illness, health experts advise cooking beef thoroughly at a temperature of 160 degrees to kill contaminating bacteria.

For more information, please visit:

Study Finds Chlorine Dioxide Gas Effective in Killing Listeria

Chlorine dioxide gas, the sanitizing agent used to rid the Hart Senate Office Building of anthrax, can effectively eliminate deadly bacteria from some fruits and vegetables, according to scientists at Purdue University’s Center for Food Safety Engineering. Funded by the USDA, the research conducted at Purdue found the use of chlorine dioxide gas to be particularly effective in destroying the bacteria that cause listeria. Although listeria is considered rare, it is one of the most deadly foodborne diseases, with a 20% fatality rate. According to Richard Linton, senior author of the study, the vapor was able to eradicate all listeria cells on the skin of apples, and significantly reduce the bacteria in the stem cavity and the calyx (the apple’s bottom). The study was published in the October 2002 issue of Food Microbiology.

To view the study’s abstract, please visit:

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