New research developments, pending legislation, upcoming industry events, and much more.

Sanitation Is Top Medical Milestone

A poll recently conducted by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has named sanitation as the most important medical milestone since the journal was first published in 1840. BMJ editors asked its readers to vote on the greatest medical breakthrough since the journal began 167 years ago. The BMJ selected 15 medical advances and published articles arguing the merits of each one. With more than 11,000 votes from around the world, sanitation beat out other medical achievements such as antibiotics, the contraceptive pill, vaccines, anesthesia and the discovery of DNA.

The BMJ article on sanitation notes that new sewage disposal and water supply systems in the 1800s revolutionized public health in Europe. Edwin Chadwick published, “The Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population,” in 1842, arguing that there was a desperate need for public health reform. Chadwick’s thesis is credited with originating the idea of sewage disposal and home sewage piping water. The importance of the home sanitation innovation was cemented in 1854 when Dr. John Snow discovered that cholera was a waterborne disease, not airborne as had previously been believed.

Inadequate sanitation remains a major public health problem around the globe. Highly infectious diseases attributed to poor sanitation and unsafe water, such as cholera, continue to affect entire communities in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 1.8 million people die every year from such diseases, with 90 percent of those affected being children under the age of five.

Marketing Opportunity for Drillers

National Ground Water Awareness Week is Mar. 11-17, presenting water professionals an excellent marketing opportunity. Helping the National Ground Water Association spread the word are the Automotive Oil Change Association, the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and The Groundwater Foundation. There are many ways to get involved and help your firm and your industry. Even if it’s something as simple as a post card mailing (see “Portfolio”), it’s important to do something to further the cause and educate your customer base. We’d love to hear about any marketing efforts your firm does to take advantage of the opportunity. If you’re looking for ideas, visit the “Awareness Links” at www.ngwa.org.

Latest Water Quality Bills

The House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held its first markup in the 110th Congress and approved by voice vote three bills aimed at investing in our nation’s wastewater infrastructure and improving water quality. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), chairwoman of the subcommittee, presided over the markup of the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007, the Healthy Communities Water Supply Act of 2007, and the Water Quality Investment Act of 2007.

The Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 reauthorizes the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which would provide $20 billion over five years for loans to water-pollution-abatement projects. The bill also offers states increased flexibility in the financing packages they can offer to cities and local communities, including principal forgiveness, negative interest loans, and other financing mechanisms that may be necessary to assist communities in meeting their water quality infrastructure goals.

“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and others estimate a shortfall of between $300 to $400 billion over the next 20 years for necessary wastewater infrastructure improvements, with an annual funding gap of between $3 billion and $11 billion over current expenditures,” says Johnson. “This shortfall is significant, because without considerable improvements to the wastewater treatment infrastructure, much of the progress made in cleaning up the nation’s waters since the passage of the Clean Water Act is at risk. This legislation encourages communities to consider innovative and alternative technologies that may result in greater, long-term environmental benefits. Congress should act quickly to enact this important legislation, because it will go a long way in helping many of our communities that are least able to afford necessary improvements to their water infrastructure systems.”

The Healthy Communities Water Supply Act of 2007 reauthorizes $125 million for the EPA’s alternative water source grants program. Eligible projects include those designed to conserve, manage, reclaim or reuse water or wastewater, or treat wastewater to meet critical municipal, industrial and agricultural water supply needs.

“Rapid population growth and development in certain areas of the country have taxed the ability of localities to meet the drinking water needs of their communities. This, coupled with an increased awareness of the environmental impact of massive water withdrawals from freshwater supplies and the growing threat of global climate change on regional precipitation patterns, has forced many local communities to explore alternative sources of water,” explains Johnson. “This program is vitally important to ensure the availability of sufficient drinking water sources to meet current and future needs.”

The Water Quality Investment Act of 2007 reauthorizes appropriations to municipalities to control combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). CSOs and SSOs are overflows of untreated waste that can occur during wet weather events as a result of poor maintenance, deteriorating infrastructure or inadequate capacity.

“These overflows are significant concerns for public health and safety, because they often result in discharges of raw sewage into neighboring rivers, streets, beaches and basements,” Johnson stresses. “To eliminate combined sewer overflows, communities must redesign their sewer systems to separate sewage flows from storm water flows or provide significant additional capacity to eliminate the possibility that combined flows will exceed the limits of the infrastructure. Either way, this will be a massive undertaking – estimated by the EPA to cost more than $50 billion.”

Arsenic Filter System Wins $1 Million

George Mason University professor Abul Hussam pours water into a system he developed that filters arsenic from well water. The inexpensive, easy-to-make system has won a $1 million engineering prize, and Hussam plans to use most of the money to distribute the filters to needy communities around the world. Read the whole story in this issue. Photo courtesy of Evan Cantwell, George Mason University.
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