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article imageCall for increased monitoring of U.S. drinking water

By Tim Sandle     Jan 13, 2017 in Environment
Washington - A call has been made for increased monitoring of U.S. drinking water supplies, specifically for chemical and microbial contaminants. The concern is with vulnerable people like pregnant women, infants and young children.
The request has come from a panel of scientists and engineers, which was assembled to provide advice to President Obama. Whether the advice will be taken up by President Trump is uncertain. The panel is called PCAST and it is chaired by Dr. Rosina Bierbaum of the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine. A key remit is to consider how science and technology could help ensure the safety of the U.S. drinking water.
The report is headed "Science and Technology to Ensure the Safety of the Nation's Drinking Water." The recommendations are split into short-term measures and longer-term actions. These include, as Lab Manager summarizes:
Increased monitoring of drinking-water contaminants. The recommendation extends to focus on areas with high populations of vulnerable people. For example, women who enroll in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children should have their tap-water tested for lead.
Improved data sharing and accessibility between different agencies and local government. This will allow more accurate data to be collated.
New citizen-science projects to assess drinking water. This will lead to more data being gathered.
Increased investment by the federal government in programs aimed at helping those tasked with maintaining water systems to gain the skills needed to support the operation and improvement of drinking-water systems.
The panel report that although drinking water in the U.S. is generally of a high standard, public confidence is low. In addition, there is concern with some areas and these present considerable challenges. There is also a knowledge gap, given the size and complexity of the U.S. water system as to which areas need to be prioritized. This is partly why the panel are calling on users to undertake home testing as part of the citizen science project.
Speaking on the release of the report, Dr. Bierbaum said: “The release of this report could not come at a more important time. Last month Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation Act, authorizing funding for Flint and other communities to respond to lead problems.”
The reference to Flint relates to problems about lead in tap water in Flint, Michigan. To help resolve this, the U.S. Congress has recently passed the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation Act.
More about Drinking water, Safe drinking water, Water, Water supply, Contamination
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