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Drinking Water Issues Identified in Public Health Officials’ Priorities

A study sponsored by CDC was published this week in Environmental Health Perspectives that identifies environmental health challenges and research needs for departments of health across the U.S.. 1700 public health professionals participated in the study’s survey which informed the 29 priority problem statements that identify key challenges and research needs in the field of environmental health.

The study lists 4 priorities under drinking water needs and challenges, one of the six categories identified through the survey:Image result for environmental health perspectives

  • Drinking water supplies are not consistently being monitored and evaluated for contaminants of historical (e.g., Escherichia coli, arsenic, lead, and nitrate/nitrite) and emerging (e.g., per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, noroviruses, legionella, and algal toxins) concern.
  • Although aging drinking water infrastructure is recognized as an environmental public health threat for larger utilities, risk-based interventions in smaller communities and rural settings, including on private property, are limited.
  • Private drinking water supplies do not receive adequate environmental health services (i.e., inform but not enforce, cannot retest unless asked) due to inconsistent policies (i.e., no jurisdiction) and public perceptions (i.e., lack of trust).
  • Source water quantity (e.g., groundwater, surface water), which is stressed by population growth, overexploitation (e.g., unregulated pumping), and droughts, is not consistently managed (i.e., by private and public).

The article suggests that environmental health professionals continue to work on initiatives to address these challenges, including developing strategic partnerships with nontraditional partners.