Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs – November 2nd, 2001

In the News…
Public Health and Drinking Water News Briefs

November 2, 2001

EPA Announces Water Protection Task Force

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the inception of an EPA-led water protection task force that will be charged with helping federal, state and local partners expand their capabilities to safeguard the nation’s drinking water supply from potential terrorist attack. EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman stated, “While EPA already has a strong coordinated partnership program for protecting our drinking water, this task force will have specific duties to expand EPA’s service to the community water systems.” In addition to existing notification systems that allow quick information sharing between drinking water providers, law enforcement and emergency response officials, Whitman articulated that the new task force seeks to ensure that all community drinking water utilities have access to the best scientific information and technical expertise in the event of and in preparation for an emergency.

To read the EPA release, visit

Bioterrorism Alert Extended

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has extended its terrorist threat advisory to water utilities through December 11th. Though the FBI does not consider the contamination of water supplies a probable or effective threat given dilution and disinfection barriers, the agency is encouraging utilities to maintain the highest level of security as U.S. military forces continue action in Afghanistan. Ronald Dick, the Director of the FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center, notes, “In order to prevent contamination of a water supply, local water works or utilities should maintain a secure perimeter around the source and the treatment facility. In addition, security should be maintained around critical nodes such as tunnels, pumping facilities, storage facilities, and the network of water mains and subsidiary pipes should be enhanced.”

To read the FBI’s testimony before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, visit

U.S. Life Expectancy on the Rise

Life expectancy for the U.S. population reached a record high of 76.9 years in 2000 as mortality declined for several leading causes of death, according to preliminary figures from a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC report, “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2000,” indicates that age-adjusted death rates continued to fall for heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the United States that account for more than one-half of all deaths in the country each year. In addition, the preliminary infant mortality rate in the United States fell to its lowest level ever in 2000 – 6.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, down from a rate of 7.1 in 1999. According to CDC Director Jeffrey Koplan, “A healthy pregnancy is a major factor in reducing the risk of infant death.”

To view the full report, visit ( PDF)

Science Used to Educate Teens about Food Safety

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Science Teachers Association unveiled an extensive public education program to educate middle and high school students about food safety and careers in food science. Science and Our Food Supply explores the scientific processes and considerations involved in all areas of food production, from the farm to the dinner table. In addition to imparting academic knowledge, the program also encourages teens to apply what they have learned outside of school. More high school students are employed in restaurants than in any other industry, yet they often do not have working knowledge of food science and safety. Emphasizing the importance of this program, Dr. Bernard Schwetz, Acting Principal Deputy Commissioner of Food and Drugs for the FDA notes, “Every year, we estimate that 76 million people fall sick from foodborne illness – 325,000 of them are hospitalized and 5,000 will die.”

For more information on Science and Our Food Supply, visit

Joan Rose Awarded 2001 Clarke Prize

The Water Quality & Health Council is proud to announce that its chair, Joan B. Rose, has been awarded the 2001 Athalie Richardson Irvine Clark prize by the National Water Research Institute (NWRI). The NWRI established the prize to award outstanding research scientists for excellence in water research. For more than 20 years, Dr. Rose has made groundbreaking advances in understanding water quality and protecting public health. She is widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on Cryptosporidium, and was the first person to present a method for detecting this pathogen in water supplies. Dr. Rose, a Professor of Microbiology in the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida, has published more than 200 papers and articles on microbial water quality issues.

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