Question of the Week

September 15, 2003


"Last summer, over 200 beach closings occurred at the nine Lake County, Lake Michigan beaches due to high bacteria counts. Two beaches in particular, North Point Marina and Waukegan South beaches, were closed over 50 percent of the time."

With animals, people, garbage, and run-off, coastal waters are not always as clean as we might hope for them to be.

"One of hundreds of strains of the bacterium Escherichia coli, E. coli O157:H7 is an emerging cause of foodborne and waterborne illness. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, this strain produces a powerful toxin and can cause severe illness.  E. coli O157:H7 was first recognized as a cause of illness during an outbreak in 1982 traced to contaminated hamburgers. Since then, most infections are believed to have come from eating undercooked ground beef. However, some have been waterborne.  In 1999, people became sick after drinking contaminated water in Washington County, New York and swimming in contaminated water in Clark County, Washington."

These are not common ailments; water is monitored, and beaches are closed when possible threats arise. Now, you are being encouraged to get involved with this monitoring process where you live.

"To ensure that Americans and citizens around the globe have clean water for domestic, agricultural, commercial and recreational uses, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is partnering with America's Clean Water Foundation and the International Water Association to urge people around the world to test the quality of their streams, lakes, wetlands, and coastal waters. The first World Water Monitoring Day will be held Oct. 18, 2003....Volunteers of all ages will perform four key tests to measure dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity/clarity and temperature. They can then enter their findings on the Web."

Beginning this week, people around the world will begin sampling their local water quality and sharing this information internationally.

"The world's supply of clean, useable water is a product of the global hydrologic cycle. Life and health are at stake in many parts of the world where the quality of water is diminished by lack of understanding, inadequate resources or misuse. In other parts of the world, commerce and recreation are the most significant impacts. Since the world's water supply is constantly recycled through natural processes over vast geographic expanses, water quality truly becomes a worldwide issue....From September 18 to October 18, citizens throughout the world community will have an opportunity to monitor the quality of their local watersheds and enter the results of their efforts into an international database....While the actions taken over such a short time cannot solve the water quality problems that exist in many locations, they can contribute to the effort already underway to change the practices and attitudes that impact the health of each watershed."

This program (and other monitoring programs through local agencies that continue year-round) addresses the quality of water found in our lakes, rivers, seas, bays, and other places we find water in nature. If you do not come into contact with water outside of your home or school on a regular basis, water quality is still an issue for you.With regards to the water that comes into our homes and other buildings: "The United States has one of the safest water supplies in the world. However, national statistics don't tell you specifically about the quality and safety of the water coming out of your tap. That's because drinking water quality varies from place to place, depending on the condition of the source water from which it is drawn and the treatment it receives."

"Each year by July 1 you should receive in the mail a short report (consumer confidence report) from your water supplier that tells where your water comes from and what's in it -- see if your report is posted on-line or read a fact sheet about these new reports..."

Questions of the Week:
How do indoor and outdoor water quality affect you? What can you do to help assure that the water you use for drinking and recreation (as well as the water that comes into contact with your food), is safe? Beyond just being safe, what can you do to help maintain and/or improve the quality of the water in your home and in your local watershed?

Looking for a way to get your class or club involved--for free?
"Give Water A Hand is national watershed education program designed to involve young people in local environmental service projects. Following
steps in the Give Water A Hand Action Guide (download it for FREE!), your youth group or class plans and completes a community service project to protect and improve water resources. Here's how it works....Give Water A Hand program activities are presented in two publications -- the youth Action Guide and the Leader Guidebook (for youth leaders and teachers). These easy-to-follow, illustrated guides show how to organize and carry out effective action-oriented projects. To see the basic steps you'll follow to protect and improve your watershed resources, click here...."

You can also go "to the State Water Resources Control Board's Education and Public Outreach Web Page...." The state they focus on is California, but the information for the public "about the importance of water quality so that they will support our efforts and understand their role in protecting our state's rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters" is good for a broader audience.

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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