In response to “Comprehensive Review on the Causes of Waterborne Outbreaks” by Kelly A. Reynolds, MSPH, Ph.D., WC&P, March 2011
We are in complete agreement with Dr. Reynold’s article focusing on the causes of waterborne outbreaks. We have been aware of the reports discussed, as well as the limitations of the data for quite some time. In order to gain a clearer picture of what the issues are and what is happening across not only the United States but across the world, we have been tracking news reports related to several topics, including contamination reports, boil water alerts, drinking water infrastructure and private drinking water wells.
In August 2010, WC&P published an article we wrote on the topic of boil water alerts in the US, showing data we collected for the first six months of the year. Included here is an updated map, showing what we collected for all of 2010.
There are limitations to the data we collect, as there are relatively few reporting guidelines in consistent use across the US, and not every boil water alert is publicized in a way that our research can find. Regarding boil water alerts specifically, CNN reported US EPA and AWWA findings that there are approximately 700 water main breaks daily, and water pipes may be from 40 to 80 years old (some even older, especially in the Northeast). While not every water main break results in a boil water alert per se, it is entirely possible that any break in a pipe that supplies drinking water could possibly result in contamination of the water supply.
In reviewing the data and literature covering this subject, we have also found that only 10 to 30 percent of waterborne microbial outbreaks are actually reported; 50 percent of all gastrointestinal illness (GI) are waterborne related; studies show POU systems reduce GI by one-third, and incidental microbes are always in the water supply, even in properly operating water utilities.
On the topic of prevention and point of use, there are certified drinking water filtration systems on the market for sale throughout the US, including California, that provide bacteria reduction to 99.9999 percent virus reduction to 99.99 percent, and cyst reduction to 99.95 percent, along with several other contaminant reduction claims, including VOC and chlorine tasteand-odor reduction.
We have found the vigilant pursuit of market knowledge on topics regarding drinking water to be invaluable not only for our company’s use but also for our customer’s use. The greater the understanding of contaminant and infrastructure issues we all have, the greater impact we can have as solution providers to users in need of POU systems that will help ensure the quality of their drinking water.
Frank A. Brigano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Technology
KX Technologies, LLC