Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – December 20th, 2002

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

December 20, 2002

EPA Takes Steps To Ensure Security Of Water System Vulnerability Assessments

In an effort to protect sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a protocol to guide the secure collection, review and storage of water utility vulnerability assessments (VAs). The protocol dictates that the VAs will be kept in a secure location and locked at all times, with only certain designated individuals allowed access. Also, assessments will not be loaned to regional EPA offices except in rare cases. The new protocol is required by the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. All utilities that serve over 3,300 people must evaluate their system’s vulnerability to terrorism. Within six months of assessment completion, utilities must prepare or revise emergency response plans.

For more information, please visit:

Stage 2 D/DBP Rule and LT2ESWTR Continue to Progress

A committee comprised of officials from the EPA and various water industry stakeholders held a teleconference last week to discuss the status and next steps for two drinking water rules – the Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproduct Rule and the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2ESWTR). Born out of 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, both rules are designed to address the risk trade-offs between pathogen control and exposure to disinfection byproducts (DBPs), with goals of reducing exposure to DBPs in drinking water while maintaining public health. The EPA announced that it plans to formally propose both rules in May 2003, allowing for a 90-day public comment period. The rules are expected to be finalized by the fall of 2004.

For more information on the Stage 2 rule, please visit:

For information about the LT2ESWTR, please visit:

Federal Officials Accused of Lax Response to Listeria Contamination at PA Plant

A federal meat inspector charged that U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials were aware of listeria detection at a Pennsylvania food processing plant, but failed to recall potentially contaminated products or shut down the plant for several more months, according to Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA). In a December 11th letter to USDA Secretary Ann Veneman, Waxman noted that federal inspector Vincent Erthal apparently alerted USDA officials this spring of the sanitation problems, yet the plant’s chief government inspector and top regional inspectors did not act to close the plant for health concerns. The plant was finally closed in mid-October after the deadly strain of listeria was found in the facility’s drains. The outbreak of listeria began this past summer, and has left at least seven people dead and approximately 50 ill. The Franconia, PA plant of Wampler Foods issued one of the country’s largest recalls of its kind in U.S. history – over 27 million pounds of ready-to-eat poultry products – but has since reopened for business.

To read the letter from Representative Waxman, please visit: ( PDF)

UN Launches International Year of Freshwater 2003

In mid-December, the United Nations (UN) launched the International Year of Freshwater 2003, an initiative to galvanize action on the critical water problems faced around the world. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated, “Lack of access to water – for drinking, hygiene and food safety – inflicts enormous hardship on more than a billion members of the human family… The International Year of Freshwater can play a vital role in generating the action needed.” Among the events planned, in March, the UN will release the World Water Development Report, a comprehensive view of today’s water problems that will offer recommendations for meeting future demand. In related news, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights declared that access to safe water falls within the scope of human rights. According to the Committee, “Water is fundamental for life and health…. It is a prerequisite to the realization of all other human rights.”

For more information, please visit:

CDC Promotes Use of Chlorine in Preventing Norwalk Virus on Cruise Ships

In a teleconference discussing the recent outbreak of gastrointestinal illness on cruise ships, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials recently cited chlorine as the essential ingredient in fighting the Norwalk virus. Dr. Marc Widdowson, a CDC epidemiologist, remarked on disinfection practices, “We know that chlorine works… The recommendations we give are based on chlorine base.” The Norwalk virus has recently wreaked havoc on cruise lines, including Holland America and Disney. The virus is a common cause of nonbacterial gastroenteritis.

To read a full transcript of the teleconference, please visit:

For more information on the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program, visit:

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