E. Coli Awareness

Dec. 28, 2000

Is it any wonder that consumers are concerned with their water? Turn on your television some night and listen for stories about the quality of water. Stories promoting the importance of water and the quality of tap water are not as easy to find as the terrible stories such as the New York fairground’s Escherichia coli (E. coli) groundwater contamination or, more recently, the case in Walkerton, Canada, that left seven residents dead and 1,000 ill. Each of these examples has created an increased concern over how good our tap water is and how we can prevent such occurrences from happening again. The public is concerned, and now is our chance to ease their minds.

There are approximately 73,000 cases of E. coli annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, this infection is not just domestic but on a global scale. The most deadly of the strains is E. coli 0157.H7, which produces a toxin that binds with body cells, causing them to die. The most common cause of E. coli outbreaks is the consumption of contaminated, undercooked beef, but more and more we tend to hear about sewage-contaminated water.

How can these tragedies be prevented? Is there something dealers can do to inform customers? How can these outbreaks be cleaned up? A question and answer section on page 36 features Alan Leff, managing director of Quasi LLC; Lou Smith, water quality consultant for the Canadian Water Quality Association; and Cynthia Dougherty, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water. The topic? E. coli: Its causes, prevention, clean up and standards.

Once our water professionals are educated and made aware of these situations, we all can pass on the information to the public and make sure their worries and needs are addressed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, participate in standards and law development and help out when disaster strikes.

Chlorine, ozone and ultraviolet are the three primary media used to treat water for E. coli. Ultraviolet disinfection fights against protozoa, viruses and bacteria including E. coli. Page 10 begins an article by Gail Sakamoto, head biologist and senior science advisor for Trojan Technologies, Inc., which discusses "Ultraviolet Disinfection of Pathogens in Drinking Water." She explains which ultraviolet doses are necessary to inactivate specific pathogens.

There are many waterborne illnesses that could use some talking about and attention. Let’s all begin by learning what we can do to prevent them.

Best Wishes,


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