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PR EPA TO ADDRESS THREATS TO DRINKING WATER FROM CRYPTOSPORI.

Release Date: 5/2/96
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PR EPA TO ADDRESS THREATS TO DRINKING WATER FROM CRYPTOSPORI.

FOR RELEASE: THURSDAY, MAY 2, 1996

EPA TAKES IMPORTANT STEP TO ADDRESS THREATS TO DRINKING WATER FROM CRYPTOSPORIDIUM

In an important step toward protecting public health from an emerging drinking water problem, EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner today moved to require monitoring for cryptosporidium and other disease-causing microbial contaminants in large drinking water systems, starting early next year. Part of a major data collection program on the microbes -

    which cannot be completely controlled using current treatment methods -- the effort should provide EPA with the data needed to set formal standards for the microbes in the future.
EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner said, "Today's action will result in more information than ever about drinking water contaminants that have thus far defied treatment and presented public health officials with one of our most important challenges. The data we will collect over 18 months -- along with new scientific research now underway -- will allow us to set the standards we need to fully protect public health."

Because cryptosporidium is difficult to detect and treat, current EPA drinking water safety standards are not explicitly designed to ensure its removal. EPA has taken a series of steps to resolve a number of scientific uncertainties that will enable the agency to set specific safety standards for this parasite in the future.

Public drinking water systems serving populations greater than 100,000 and that use surface waters as a source of drinking water will monitor to develop information on how often cryptosporidium enters the water supply, sources of the cryptosporidium and the effectiveness of various treatment techniques. Many large systems now use filtration, the most effective treatment to date against cryptosporidium.

Cryptosporidium is a parasite commonly found in lakes and rivers, especially when the water is contaminated with sewage and animal wastes. Cryptosporidium can cause gastrointestinal illness and death in people with severely compromised immune systems. It has been the source of several disease outbreaks and some deaths including a major outbreak in l993 in Milwaukee, where more than 100 people died.

In addition, public water systems will monitor for disinfectant use. All of the monitoring requirements, for both the microbes and the disinfectants, are part of an "information collection rule," signed yesterday by Browner. The rule is designed to provide data to be used later in a larger and pending reassessment and subsequent regulation of purifying disinfectants, such as chlorine, and their byproducts. The disinfectants have little effect on cryptosporidium, but they are effective against other disease-causing microbes and bacteria. New scientific data have indicated that some byproducts of disinfectants may cause chronic health effects and EPA wants to ensure an appropriate risk/benefit tradeoff, since disinfectants are the

predominant purifying treatment used by nearly all systems.

The monitoring data will be collected for 18-months. After the first eight months, it will be available to the public. The general public can call EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 for additional information.

Over the last year, Administrator Browner has taken an number of significant steps to further protect public health from cryptosporidium;

in June l995, EPA and CDC issued a joint guidance for individuals with severely weakened immune systems who may want to take extra precautions with their drinking water to further protect against cryptosporidium.

in March l995, Browner announced an "Agenda for Action," detailing the future direction of the national drinking water program, including more emphasis on resolving microbial contamination; an effort to provide better information to consumers about their drinking water so that they can make informed decisions; and an effort to provide water suppliers with additional federal funding and technical assistance through a new state revolving fund;

March l995, Browner announced a "Partnership for Safe Water" with drinking water suppliers who agree to upgrade their facilities to ensure the most protective systems possible, particularly against microbial contamination.

R-59 ###