Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – September 11th, 2006

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

September 11, 2006

EPA Draft Guidance for Concurrent Compliance Released

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft guidance manual to help U.S. drinking water facilities simultaneously comply with the Stage 2 Disinfectant and Disinfection Byproducts Rule (Stage 2 Rule), the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule and other Safe Drinking Water Act regulations while avoiding potential negative impacts from changes in treatment practices. The guide is part of a continuing effort to balance the benefits and risks of at once combating microbial contamination of public drinking water systems while supporting rules that regulate potentially harmful byproducts formed during the disinfection process.

Release this summer, the Simultaneous Compliance Guidance Manual (Draft) for the Final Stage 2 M-DBP Rules focuses on methods of helping public water systems reduce lead in drinking water while complying with regulations on microbials and disinfection byproducts. According to updated EPA rules, public water systems must fully evaluate how changes in current treatment process will ultimately affect the system’s ability to meet the standards set by 2006’s Stage 2 Rule and the new Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule which strengthens existing microbial contaminant regulations.

EPA developed this guidance in response to heightened awareness of the risk/benefit issue raised by the drinking water crisis experienced by Washington, DC in 2004. Lead levels in District water supplies spiked when the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) switched from its traditional free chlorine disinfection process to chloramines. Based on studies conducted in the aftermath of the crisis, it was found that WASA’s attempt to comply with the Stage I Disinfection Byproducts Rule led to an increased corrosivity in local water piping which allowed high levels of lead to leach from pipes into household tap water.

The Guidance document is available at:

Preparedness Month Awareness Focused on Water Storage Tips

The National Consumers League and International Bottled Water Association inaugurated September’s National Preparedness Month with a campaign reminding the public of the importance of storing clean, potable drinking water for emergency situations.

According to the joint initiative, public drinking water service could be interrupted for an indeterminate time period or water safety may be compromised during an emergency event. The campaign reminds consumers that it is important to keep a safe water supply on hand for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene use. Additionally, the effort raises awareness on the importance of proper storage of water supplies. Exposure to microorganisms in contaminated water can lead to a number of health risks, including harmful diarrheal disease.

Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommend that all U.S. households should maintain an emergency supply of water of at least one gallon per person per day for three days.

According to the joint campaign, consumers should follow a few basic steps to ensure safe water storage. These guidelines include the following:

* Select appropriate containers and disinfect them before use. Rinse them with a diluted chlorine bleach solution (one part bleach to ten parts water) before use.

* If necessary, treat tap water with a chlorine bleach solution before storing it to prevent buildup of harmful bacteria. The water should be replaced every six months.

* Store both bottled water and tap water out of direct sunlight and at a constant room temperature (between 59-86 degrees F.) or cooler, if possible.

For additional drinking water storage tips from the Water Quality & Health Council, please go to:

New Ohio Guidelines Tap Chlorine Bleach to Combat C. Diff

With incidents of the bacterial infection Clostridium difficile (C. diff) on the rise across the nation, Ohio state health officials have imposed new disinfection regimes in hospitals and nursing homes to combat the spread of disease. These new state guidelines call for the use of chlorine bleach-based cleansers to disinfect rooms occupied by patients with the bacterial infection, limiting the risk of C. diff’s spread among populations with compromised or weakened immune systems.

According to health experts, the emergence of C. diff is likely due to an over prescribing of antibiotics. Approximately 15 percent of the population carries C. diff in its intestinal tract with no harmful effect. However, extended use of antibiotics can potentially eliminate “friendly” bacteria in the colon, allowing C. diff to grow unchecked.

Symptoms of C. diff include diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. Prolonged infection can lead to serious intestinal conditions such as colitis.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the spread of C. diff can be generally prevented by basic hand-washing with soap and water, especially after using the restroom and before eating. Additionally, practicing surface area disinfection regimen in bathrooms, kitchens and other public areas can limit the disease’s effect.

In an effort to control the disease, the state of Ohio started a program this year requiring all hospitals and nursing homes to document cases of C. diff. Emphasis on hand-washing routines as well as the practice of keeping patients with infection in isolation has also been put into effect.

WHO Warning on Deadly S. Africa Tuberculosis Strain

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a new and deadly strain of tuberculosis has killed 52 of 53 people infected in the last year in South Africa. The strain was discovered in the Kwazulu-Natal region of South Africa, and is classified as extremely drug-resistant. WHO reports that drugs from two of the six second-line medicines that are routinely used as a last line of defense against the disease have been ineffective against the new strain.

Drug resistance is a common problem in tuberculosis treatment; however this new strain appears particularly virulent, according to health officials.

Tuberculosis is a respiratory illness spread via aerosol droplets expelled by people with active TB disease of the lungs when they cough or sneeze. Global health estimates are that approximately 2 billion people worldwide have latent tuberculosis infection.

WHO and a partnership group including the South African Medical Research Council and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are convening this month in South Africa to discuss the new strain in search of better ways to diagnose and treat it.

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