Nov 16, 2004

Trouble Ahead ?

Unless water treatment plants are upgraded, millions of people who live around the Great Lakes could face a tainted water disaster like the one in Walkerton, Ont., in 2000 that killed seven people.
According to the CBC, an International Joint Commission report to Canadian and U.S. governments pointed to a number of ongoing threats to the Great Lakes, which provide drinking water for 40 million people.
“Increases in population, increases in urbanization and increases in factory farming mean that new treatment facilities will have to be developed in addition to what’s there already,” said Herb Gray, the Canadian co-chair of the commission.
The effects of the disease-causing agents like bacteria are another
concern of the commission.
“The Walkerton incident demonstrates that even one system failure can impose enormous monetary as well as tragic human costs,” the report said. “If the U.S. and Canada do not invest in their aging water infrastructure systems, the potential for more outbreaks of waterborne diseases will increase.”
This past summer, nearly 900 people reported gastrointestinal illnesses after visiting a tourist island on Lake Erie. The cause of the outbreak
hasn’t been determined but pathogens in the water have been known
to cause similar problems.
An international team of researchers is studying ways to use ozone to break down pharmaceuticals in untreated water.
“Ozone is known to be the strongest disinfectant to inactivate pathogens,” said Saad Jasim, director of water quality at the Windsor Utilities Commission.
The city of Windsor uses ozone to treat its drinking water, which exceeds safety regulations, according to Jasim.
The commission is interested in studying ozone treatment options
as well, according to Gray.

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